Eleven weeks, 36 locations, and 3,000 meals each day. That formula added up to good nutrition for thousands of kids who returned to school ready to learn because of Treasure Coast Food Bank’s Summer Meals program.

Through all of its summer programs, Treasure Coast Food Bank provided 2.2 million meals to individuals, kids and families who always face tighter food budgets when kids are home. Creative collaborations helped make it all possible.

“Our goal is always to provide food where people have easy access to it,” said Judith Cruz, President and CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank. “This summer we expanded our Summer Meals program to more locations and held numerous pop-up Mobile Pantries in sites across our service area where children and families could have easy access to food.”

The Summer Meals program, which provides nutritious breakfasts, lunches and snacks to youth 18 and younger, was expanded to 36 locations this summer, including some spots not usually associated with meals. At the Elisabeth Lahti Library in Indiantown, kids gathered each week to have a meal along with some reading time.

“The library was a natural partner because both reading and nutritious meals will lead to better school readiness, and we’re hoping to partner with more library branches next summer,” Cruz said.

Another partnership contributing to its success was an internship program through CareerSource, which placed seven teens in the Green Apron Culinary program. Each week day, the teens helped Treasure Coast Food Bank’s staff prepare the fresh made sandwiches and wraps and fresh cut fruits and vegetables for all the Summer Meals sites as part of their hands-on training for careers in food production.

“The collaboration of these programs is an example of addressing short-term hunger and a long-term solution simultaneously,” Cruz said. “It enabled us to get more nutritious food to kids and families during the time of year that is most difficult for them, and at the same time, train young men and women for employment in better-paying jobs so their long-term futures are more secure.”