State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is encouraging disadvantaged families to utilize the Summer Food Service Program which is located at three Santa Monica sites: the Police Activities League, Virginia Avenue Park and John Adams Middle School.

“I encourage families to go to the hundreds of summer meal sites already open throughout the state to ensure their kids get the proper nutrition needed to help them develop properly and be ready to learn when they return to school,” Torlakson said.

The program is available to students 18 years or younger, and is free of charge. City Hall has provided the service since 1997, said Julie Rusk, director of human services.

“We get paid by the city, charge them $3 per meal,” said Orlando Griego, food services director for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. “Then they reimburse us.”

Griego said that the meals are nutritious and popular amongst kids.

“Our menu is typical of an elementary school menu,” Griego said. “We’ll serve hamburgers to beef barbecues, and serve with veggies and milk.”

According to a news release, meals must follow a specified plan that includes milk, fruits, vegetables or juice, grain products and meat or meat alternatives.

The program serves lunch to about 205 students daily. The most popular place is Virginia Avenue Park.

“About 95 kids go to Virginia [Avenue Park], 75 to JAMS and 35 to PAL,” Griego said.