For kids, lunch is served
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jun 27, 2013, 09:30
HOPEWELL — Though classes are out for the summer, Hopewell Public Schools are offering free lunches as a way to help make sure kids are still getting nutritious meals.
Lunch will be offered at Dupont Elementary from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from now until August 8, with the exception of July 4. The free lunches are a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Services Program, and in addition to being free, they are also nutritious.
Food Services Division Manager T. Patrick Barnes said the program, which is open to anyone 18 and under and is not restricted to a residency requirement, is being brought back to the city after many years. He said with the division coming in around 74 percent of students on free and reduced lunches, there was a need to bring the program back.
“So three-fourths of our kids in the summertime may have difficultly finding a lunch, and we’re able to provide that,” Barnes said. “Not only to those that cover that 74 percent but to the other 26 percent as well and even kids that aren’t in school yet.”
Barnes applied for the program to be brought back to Hopewell, and part of the application process did not involve a monetary exchange. It is not costing the school division, or the city, anything to be able to serve lunch four days a week, for seven weeks.
“It’s a not-for-profit program so the goal is to feed as many people as possible while breaking even,” Barnes said.
The Summer Food Services Program has been in existence since 1968 where it started as part of a larger pilot program. It became a separate program in 1975 and in the summer of 2012 more than 2 million children participated at over 39,000 sites across the country.
The program is being held at Dupont Elementary School for the first year of the program being in the city in quite a number of years. Barnes said based on the success of the program and how many meals are served, the program could come back next year and be at held at more than one school.
“I’d love to be able to do 500 meals a day,” Barnes said. “That school is staffed and equipped for 500 meals with no trouble.”
The meals served over the summer and during the school year are in keeping with the USDA’s “Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act,” which was implemented in 2010. Under those guidelines, 50 percent of the grain servings have to be at least 51 percent whole grain. The students are also required to have a fruit or vegetable with their lunch.
Barnes said on the first day of the program, chicken patties were served on a whole grain bun with a fresh fruit and a cup fruit, a fresh vegetable and a cup vegetable and a carton of milk.
Though the turnout was low on the first couple days of the program, which started June 24, Barnes is hoping to reach as many members of not only the Hopewell community, but the surrounding communities as well.
“It becomes that we’re able to provide them with these increased healthier meals and with the whole grains and the fresh vegetables, and things that they may not be able to get at home,” Barnes said. “This program allows us to continue the healthy meals at least at lunch through the summer.”