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Saturday
October 19th, 2019

summer lunchA group of children prepares to receive a free lunch through USD 480’s summer meals program last summer. This year’s summer meals will begin June 4 with meals being served at the Liberal Recreation Center, Liberal Memorial Library, Seymour Rogers Middle School and Meadowlark Elementary School. L&T file photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times

 

The summer is a great time for fun and time with friends but for some children, it is also a difficult time as far as having access to meals during the day. 

USD 480 will be having its summer feeding program starting June 4 and it will run until Aug.10. Summer meals are free for any child between 1 and 18 years old and there is no paperwork to fill out or any qualifiers. The only rule is the meals must be eaten on site, they cannot be taken home or away from the site. Staff will be serving hot meals at Meadowlark Elementary School and Seymour Rogers Middle School with the meals being served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The sack lunches will be available at Liberal Memorial Library, the Recreation Center and Light Park (just through June and 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.) near the pool from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. USD 480 Food Services Director Connie Vogts said she and staff are excited for the changes, notably the availability of hot meals. 

“We have cooking kitchens in more of our schools now instead of having just the main kitchen here at the high school,” Vogts said. “We have cooking kitchens at those schools and want to use them to their full potential and we have the capability to provide a hot lunch for them during the summer, so we’re taking advantage of it. I’m really excited we’re branching out and offering the hot meals instead of just a cold sandwich. I think the children will be really excited to see cheeseburgers and chicken strips and other things they really like, and we’re really excited to be able to offer those options for this year.”

Overall, Vogts said, it is important for communities to offer programs like the summer meals. 

“A large part of our student population depends on school meals during the school year to meet their nutritional needs and keep them fed, and that doesn’t change because it’s summer,” Vogts said. “If it’s a situation like children being looked after by an older sibling because the parents are working, it’s easier for them to go to one of the sites and get a free meal that helps with food budgeting and also eliminates cleanup in the kitchen at home. The need is still there in the summer – whether they’re in school or not, those children still need to be fed. We’ve had good participation at all of our sites, we were even surprised we had good turnout by the pool too.”

Vogts also offered encouragement for parents to send their children to any of the sites offering the meals and for children to visit too. 

“It’s quick, it’s convenient, it’s easy and it’s a good nutritious meal. I would encourage them to come out and visit any one of the sites they want and get a meal,” Vogts said. “It also saves on the hassle of coming up with meals in the summer. I would encourage parents to send their children or bring their children to one of the sites. I would say the same thing for older children either looking after their siblings or babysitting as a summer job for another family so they can get a good meal. We’re very excited to be starting the hot meal option this year and it’s going to be a new and exciting summer for us.”

Vogts added the numbers from summer meal participation this year will also give staff some ideas for how to proceed with next summer’s program. 

“When summer meals are over and we can sit back and evaluate the participation and how that was at each site and all that information we can discuss all of that, but I feel like participation will be good again this year with all the changes,” Vogts said. “The need is there and so is the convenience. Parents struggle sometimes to find those extra dollars to feed their children during the summer and/or find another avenue of feeding them, and our summer meals are a great way to take care of that.”

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