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Jenna Yciano, 8, of Stockton, plays around with a hula hoop during the kick-off to the free summer lunch program for school aged youth sponsored by the Pittsburg School District at Buchanan Park in Pittsburg, Calif., on Friday, June 14, 2013. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

PITTSBURG -- Free lunches are again available this summer to school-age youth under a program sponsored by the Pittsburg Unified School District.

Not only nutritious lunches, but a healthy breakfast and snacks are included in the fifth annual summer food program that kicked off last week at a dozen sites in Pittsburg, including various schools, churches and the Boys & Girls Club.

"We have about the same amount of locations but we are hoping to feed some additional students," said Matt Belasco, the district's director of the child nutrition.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are no income limits or residency requirements for the program, which is also open to disabled adults. Meals are prepared at Pittsburg High School and transported to the participating sites. Last year, the program provided about 80,000 servings of breakfast, lunch and snacks.

For the first time, the free food program is being linked to a summertime campaign that was also launched last week to encourage children to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and play outdoors for an hour a day as a way to stay healthy and fight childhood obesity.

School kids gain weight more than twice as fast during the summers compared to the regular school year, according to research cited by state health officials that are behind the "Power Up Your Summer" campaign. The so-called "summer slump" can result from kids snacking more and not having balanced meals at school sites, along with physical activity associated with the recess and exercise they get during the school year.

"We don't want to lose the progress they made during the school year," Belasco said. "We want to take that through the summer."

Schools in Bay Point are also offering free meals to school-age children through the Mount Diablo Unified School District.

The "Power Up Your Summer" campaign is a partnership involving state health officials, the school district, Kaiser Permanente, Contra Costa Health Services. Contra Costa Library, and the East County Boys & Girls Club in Pittsburg, among others.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.

If intereSTED
The Summer Food Service program provides free breakfast and lunch meals on weekdays to youths between the ages of 2 and 18 years and disabled adults. For specific dates, times and locations in Pittsburg check out this link:
http://www.pittsburg.k12.ca.us/uploads/documents/2013-CNSSummerSchedule.pdf. Call 925-473-2419.
Schools in Bay Point are also offering free lunches and breakfast through the Mount Diablo Unified School District. Call 925-682-8000, ext. 4124.