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Providence’s Eat, Play, Learn youth summer programming back for 2024

Program provides access to food, outdoors, creative engagement

Mayor Brett Smiley announced the return of Eat, Play, Learn for this summer. 

Eat, Play, Learn PVD, realized by the City of Providence and the Providence Public School District, has provided youth summer programming to families across Providence since 2016 including meals, educational opportunities and recreation. 

The program is a “nationally recognized initiative that provides our kids and families with access to healthy food, outdoor play, skill-building and creative engagement all summer long,” city spokesperson Josh Estrella wrote in an email to The Herald. Estrella noted “the critical importance of investing in quality out-of-school experiences that provide our students access to healthy meals and further elevate their education.”

According to PPSD spokesperson Jay Wegimont, the program aims to offer “holistic support” for students and families, he wrote. 


Putting together Eat, Play, Learn is a collaborative effort. The Providence Parks Department and Sodexo provide free summer meals to students. The Recreation Department overseas youth employment and recreation camps. The PPSD and Providence Public Library provide support in advertising the program and facilitating educational programming. Meal services will run June 24 through Sept. 1, and summer learning programs will run July 10 to Aug. 17, according to a City press release.

According to Wegimont, the program addresses summer learning loss, which “disproportionately affects low-income and diverse students.” He added that, “the program's emphasis on free-of-charge, full-day programming makes it accessible to students who may not otherwise have access to summer learning opportunities.”

While the program was “initially formed to support students in K-8 in response to the recognized issue of summer learning loss, the program has grown to incorporate programs for students in high school with a stronger focus on social-emotional learning and differentiated instruction,” Wegimont wrote. 

According to Estrella, over 4,000 K-12 students are currently enrolled in the program. But, he highlighted that the reach of Eat, Play, Learn is much broader. In summer 2023, 70,000 meals were provided, and thousands of children took advantage of recreational opportunities throughout the City.

Free summer meals will be provided at locations throughout the City for individuals age 18 and under. Depending on location, meals will be available as early as 10:45 a.m. and as late as 2:15 p.m.. City run recreational camps and many City programs will also offer free lunches. 

With Eat, Play, Learn, sports and day camps cost only $5 per week. According to the American Camp Association, the average to send a child to summer day camp in 2021 was between $126.92 and $163.60 per day. Combining day, sports, and speciality camps, the City is offering nearly 2000 program slots, according to a City press release. 

“Mayor Smiley views improving the educational outcomes of our students as one of, if not the most pressing issue Providence is facing today,” wrote Estrella. 

For older students, job opportunities to serve as coordinators and ambassadors for the program are also available. 

On April 27, families were invited to the Summer Opportunities Fair at the Providence Career and Technical Academy to learn about Eat, Play, Learn and summer programming opportunities. Families can already sign up for programming, and students can apply for jobs offered by the City and community partners. 


Ciara Meyer

Ciara Meyer is a Senior Staff Writer covering the Beyond Brown beat. She is from Saratoga Springs, New York and plans on concentrating in Statistics and English nonfiction. In her free time, she loves scrapbooking and building lego flowers.


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