COVID-19 restrictions mean students aren’t currently allowed to attend the Sly Park Environmental Education Center, but its cafeteria staff is still busy supporting students and families from the town of Pollock Pines in El Dorado County. New flexibility in federal rules about school lunch programs allows schools to serve meals to students under the age of 18, regardless of their free meal eligibility. The updated guidelines, meant to ensure the food security of vulnerable children and reduce hunger, have allowed Sly Park to launch a weekday “Supper & Snack” program for local residents that runs through December 17.
“The best part about this is that we’re reaching out to families. We’re making connections with the local community. We’re helping out where there’s a big need, and a lot of the parents and the kids express their thanks,” said Sly Park Director Brett Nelson.
The Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) operates the residential Sly Park outdoor science campus in the Eldorado National Forest, typically drawing approximately 8,000 fifth- and sixth-grade students to learn about the outdoors and science each year, enriching their understanding of California’s Next Generation Science Standards.
The supper program that's being coordinated this fall is similar to a lunch program Sly Park staff coordinated last summer. As schools in El Dorado County concluded their student meal programs in June 2020, SCOE collaborated with several organizations to ensure qualifying Pollock Pines students continued to have access to meals through the summer.
Sly Park Head Cook Connie Peterson said the cafeteria staff take particular pride in preparing the meals because they know they’re helping their neighbors. “All of us are from Pollock Pines—at least we live here. I think it’s awesome to be able to do something for our community. It just makes my heart swell. It gives me goosebumps. It really is a joy.”
Pollock Pines resident Michelle Peters echoed the same sentiments as she stopped by to pick up meals. “It shows a sense of community where we’re helping each other out. We’re all in this together.”
Register to Pick Up “Supper & Snack” Meals
To participate, Pollock Pines families must pre-register their children, under 18 years of age, and request meals in advance. For registration instructions and further details, please email Sly Park Director Brett Nelson. Grab-and-go meals are distributed Monday–Friday in the parking lot of Pollock Pines Community Church from 2:30 to 4 p.m.