D-11 summer meal sites for children include 7 on Westside
Starting May 29 and continuing on weekdays through Aug. 3, children up to age 18 can get a free breakfast and/or lunch on the Westside.
In all, seven Westside locations - three more than last year - have been designated for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which is funded by about $170,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and implemented by School District 11. The increase is consistent with D-11 as a whole, which has increased its total number of sites from 26 in 2011 to 35 this year.
“The program has expanded to serve more of the community,” explained Rick Hughes, director of D-11 Food & Nutrition Services. He added that D-11 saw an increased need as a result of rising Free-and-Reduced-Lunch applications and - in an analysis used for the first time this year by the USDA - from census track data indicating households that have “food insecurity.”
The latter term is meant to define households where people are not sure they'll have enough food for their kids.
Under Free-and-Reduced, to qualify for a free meal during the school year, a student's family income can be no more than 130 percent of the current poverty cut-off; for a reduced-price meal, it can't be more than 185 percent.
The SFSP locations are set up in areas that have higher concentrations of those types of needy, Hughes said. This not only focuses on a target population, it results in sites that are cost-effective. The reason is that the USDA reimburses D-11 for each meal that's given out, which also helps cover the district's cost of preparing the food and opening the building to serve it out. So when more meals are taken, the district is more likely to break even on program costs, he said.
No proof of need is required for children who come to one of the sites seeking a meal.
Hughes also pointed out that each meal has to meet federal dietary standards. That's the main reason for the program. Without SFSP, the district is worried that its Free-and-Reduced students won't have “nutritious meals” during the summer, based on the information in a D-11 press release.
For a while last summer, thanks to a private statewide donor, there was enough funding that even grownups could eat free at the designated SFSP locations. “That helped tremendously,” Hughes said, in terms of people making use of the program, because there are parents who don't bring their kids if they can't eat too.
However, the donated money ran out in mid-summer, forcing D-11 back to the age 18 cut-off, he said.
The three new Westside locations this year are Jackson and Midland elementaries, both of which became Title 1 schools this year because of 75 percent Free-and-Reduced eligiblity; and the A-1 Mobile Home Village, off Garner Street, south of Highway 24.
There is no dining hall at A-1. Hughes explained that a van pulls up at specified times to drop off “to-go” meals for children there.
Here is the list of this year's Westside SFSP locations, dates and times, as provided by D-11 Food and Nutrition Services:
Westside Pioneer article