By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville School District and the Office of Child Nutrition will serve breakfast and lunch to children under 18 for free this summer at two local schools.
“During the summer months, many students have an increased risk of hunger and developmental decline,” Director of Food Services, Beverly Lowry said. “The summer food program provides an opportunity for the children to have a productive summer and be ready to return to school to learn.”
Sudduth Elementary will serve breakfast from 8-9 a.m. and lunch from 11 am to 12:15 pm. This program will run from June 1 to June 30.
Henderson Ward Stewart will serve breakfast from 8-9 a.m. and lunch from 11 am to 1 pm. This program will run from June 1 until July 15.
“I have worked the summer feeding program for the last 10 summers and I feel this program is beneficial for children and familes,” Bonita Jordan, manager of the cafeteria at Henderson Ward Stewart, said. “With the economy as it is today, I would like to encourage families to participate.”
The program is paid for by the federal government and is offered across the country.
“There are so many needy children in the area,” Lowry said. “And with the economy the way it is, it just helps a parent stretch their food dollars over the summer.”
During the summer feeding program, Suduth serves between 500-600 meals a day. Henderson Ward Stewart averages over 1,000 meals a day. While the program is aimed at children from low-income families, it is open and free for all children under 18. Henderson Ward Stewart school helps feed several camps, including the Boys and Girls Club and several church summer camps.
“It’s really good that there are programs like this, because, normally, if we weren’t in session, they would be taking some of their tuition money instead of spending it on activities, or crafts, or things like that,” Lowry said.
This year, the Starkville School District will offer a new program called “Fun on the Hill,” funded through a summer feeding grant. The program will be open to 50 children in grades 3-5.
“We’ll have some activities. They’ll do a little bit of gardening, a little bit of nutrition, and some physical activity,” Lowry said. “Hopefully, that will give them something constructive to do, and then still get that physical activity and other things that they need over the summer.”
The summer feeding program also allows child nutrition employees to continue working throughout the summer.
“The more children we have, the more people we employ,” Lowry said.
While the summer feeding program will not continue all summer long, Lowry said they tend to see a drop off in participation after July 4. By mid-July, the Office of Child Nutrition starts gearing up for the school year, so ending early gives them a chance to prepare.