On more than 500 streets in Philadelphia, neighbors roped off their street to traffic this past summer as a part of the Play Streets program. Then, the children came out to play.
While this year’s program is currently winding down, it still may be a good idea to learn about the program, or to consider hosting one, for next year.
What is a play street?
One-way streets are eligible for the Play Streets program, which has been run by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department since the 1960s. The goal is to provide a safe place to play for children in their neighborhood.
On play streets, a community leader will close their block to thru traffic from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., from Monday to Friday. In addition to streets free of traffic, free lunch is served to any children younger than 18. Meals include a sandwich, milk or juice and a snack. According to Alain Joinville, external communications director for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Play Streets served more than 2 million meals to Philadelphia kids in 2016.
Play Streets make up about half of the sites that participate in the Summer Meals Program.
Summer meals program
Since 2014, all students in the Philadelphia School District have been eligible for free lunch. During the summer months, the Summer Meals Program steps in the provide free meals to children under 18, directly in their neighborhoods.
There are more than 1,000 summer meals sites across the city and locations can be found online at www.phillysummermeals.org.
Bring the program to your neighborhood
In order to start a play street, it needs the approval of neighbors to shut down a one-way street during the work day to through traffic. At least 75 percent of neighbors must sign a petition, similar to the process of approving a block party.
A member of the block may be willing to lead the way. The community leader must be present during the hours of operation of the play street and distribute meals according to USDA standards.
Mandatory trainings for the summer meals program begin in May and are held at the M.L. King Recreation Center in North Philadelphia.
Play streets can operate any time between June 26 and Sept. 1.
Who to contact
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation: (215) 685-2725, 1515 Arch St., 10th Floor.
Department of Recreation M.L. King Recreation Center: (215) 685-2726, 2200 Cecil B. Moore Ave.
Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger: (855) 252-6325
– Photo and text by Brianna Spause.