At Universidad Interamericana in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program is a vital part of the social, physical and nutritional well-being of area children. For six years the university has sponsored the recreation and open food service site for kids ranging in age from 5 to 16 years old.
A participant in USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, the university aims to promote a healthy, fun, and educational environment with two dozen rotating activities and more than 20 special events throughout the summer. The site director Carlos Ramos says providing nutritious food and supporting a healthy lifestyle are key elements of the program’s success.
Ramos is well aware that although more 32 million children nationwide eat lunch at school during the school year, many of these children face hunger when schools are closed. The Summer Food Service Program aims to combat this problem by helping kids get healthy meals and snacks. Or, as we at USDA like to say, “food that’s in when school is out.”
To enhance the program, the university hires a select group of students to help supervise the kids and challenge their brains and bodies with a host of physical and academic activities. Expert instructors are brought in to teach karate, soccer, archery, tennis, dance, and more. There is also instruction given in science, photojournalism, sign language, and CPR.
After a morning packed full of classroom instruction and fun physical activities, the kids are served a nutritious meal prepared right in the university’s cafeteria. The university takes pride in being the only site on the island that prepares and serves its summer meals on-site.
The Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program site is open weekdays throughout the summer and is classified as an open site. That means any visitor who is 18 years old or younger can come to the campus grounds for a free meal. What’s even better is that the university aggressively promotes the free meals so that they reach as many hungry children as possible. Because of the university’s commitment, over 350 children per day eat at the site during the summer.