All 70 of the city’s pools will be open this summer, with full funding from the city; Mayor Michael Nutter announced Monday at the Awbury Recreation Center in Mount Airy.
“Nothing means summer like the opening of our pools,” said the mayor, conspicuous in his suit and tie as he spoke to a group of kids anxiously waiting to leap in the water.
Nutter did not take a plunge into the pool — a Philadelphia tradition started by former Gov. Ed Rendell, but said he had planned to.
“I fully expected to do that today,” he told reporters, adding that because of time constraints he couldn’t. “It takes extra time … I have to comb my hair.”
He was joined by Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Recreation Commissioner Susan Slawson and about 40 kids who helped them celebrate by jumping into the pool as Nutter sounded a lifeguard’s whistle, officially marking the start of summer.
This is the first year the city has been able to fully fund pool operations since the financial crisis ravaged the city’s budget just prior to the 2009 pool season. For the last three years the city has asked for donations to raise the money to open the pools through private donations. Even with the budget uncertainty this year the city was able to cover the complete cost this year.
Nutter also took a few seconds to discuss the other summer programs taking place throughout the city.
“No one should be complaining this summer that they are bored and don’t have anything to do,” he said.
Among the most important programs is the Summer Meals Program.
As Nutter spoke, city officials laid out pre-packaged lunches for children visiting the pool. Last year the city served 2.8 million meals to 900,000 children through the program. But, Nutter noted that about 41,000 kids who could have taken part in the program — based on free and reduced lunch data from the school district — failed to do so.
This year meals will be provided between June 18 and Aug. 31, to children up to 18. All the child has to do is show up.
Meals are served at about 1,000 sites across the city at schools, recreation centers, YMCAs, churches, playgrounds, play streets or city parks
On a sterner note, the mayor also reminded the city’s youth that the end of the school year meant more stringent curfew guidelines. Children 13 years old and younger must be off the street by 9 p.m.; youngsters 14 and 15 by 10 p.m. and youth 16 and 17 by 11 p.m.
“We are serious about enforcing the curfew,” Nutter said, adding that police would use their discretion when needed. As an example, the mayor used a teen with a summer job.
“If you have a summer job that keeps you out past curfew you will not automatically be in trouble if you show the officer your ID,” he said.
The city enacted a new curfew last summer after a series of high profile crimes — notably flash mobs in Center City — involving the city’s youth.
City officials are gearing up for the end of school — hoping to help kids have a fun, safe and nutritious summer. As the end of the school year approaches, officials have announced a number of initiatives aimed at the city’s youth.
Perhaps one of the most important — but least visible — is the Summer Food Program, which provides a free breakfast, lunch and mid-afternoon snack to any child in the city, filling stomachs that are often empty without access to school lunches.
“When the summer time comes we lose a lot of children,” said Patrice Patton, the Summer Food Program coordinator. “We were labeled as one of the country’s hungriest cities. For some of these children, the only healthy meal they receive during the school year is at school. So, we’re like an extension of the free-lunch program.”
Last year 2.8 million meals were served to approximately 90,000 children in June, July and August.
Patton said she expected that number to increase this year.
“Because of the economics of our city,” she said.
This year the program starts June 18 and runs through Aug. 31.
Meals will be served to children from 1 to 18. All the child has to do is show up.
“We take any child,” said Patton.
They are served at schools, recreation centers, YMCAs, churches and other sites. Meals are served at a number of outdoor sites too — playgrounds, play streets or city parks.
Last year there were 859 sites scattered throughout the city. The list of this year’s sites is still being compiled.
Patton said program officials try to keep the menu appealing to children and nutritious. The menu varies every day but she gave as an example, tuna salad on a roll with lettuce, carrot sticks on the side and chocolate milk.
The majority of the children served are under the age of 13. But, officials hope to encourage more older children, many of whom are just as hungry, to participate.
She is actively trying to reach kids in the 14- to18-year-old bracket.
“After 12 or 13 they get lost in the system,” Patton said. “I think they get embarrassed to receive a free meal. They care about what the other children think about them.”
So, this year the packaging has been changed to make it more appealing and organizers are reaching to youth athletic leagues and similar organizations to make sure anyone who needs a meal has access.
Patton added that in addition to the 90,000 youth served last year, another 41,000 children were eligible to receive food services but did not.
In addition to the food program, Mayor Michael Nutter has announced a series of recreational programs for the city’s youngsters. They included the Summer Service and Summer Reading Challenge, which offers incentives to young people who read and/or volunteer this summer. Challenge participants can pick up and drop off forms at any branch of the Free Public Library. The challenges are: for children 5 to 18, participants are asked to read three books and complete book reports; for youth, ages 14–18, participants will volunteer at least three service events, completing no less than 10 service hours.
Those who complete the challenges will be entered in to a raffle drawing, including donated tickets from the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Zoo, as well as American Idol concert tickets and WWE Wrestling tickets. Each winner will reach two tickets. The grand prize is two tickets to Power 99’s 30th Annual Powerhouse concert in October.
“Summer is certainly a time to relax and enjoy a break from school. But it is also an invaluable opportunity for our young people to be active and engaged in fun and enriching programming,” said Mayor Michael Nutter.
On a more serious note, the mayor also reminded residents that the city’s youth curfew goes into effect on the last day of school, June 14. Children 13 years old and younger must be off the street by 9 p.m.; youngsters 14 and 15 by 10 p.m. and youth 16 and 17 by 11 p.m.
For more information on summer youth programming options and for a full list of program start dates and times, call 3-1-1 or go to www.phila.gov/youthprograms.