Archived Story

Who says there's no free lunch?

Published 5:18pm Friday, June 4, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

The Brandywine Community School District is reaching beyond its own lines to provide healthy lunches to kids as part of a new summer program being offered this year.

The Summer Food Program kicks off July 5 and runs through Aug. 20. During that time, children 18 and under can take advantage of a healthy lunch being provided for free by the district.

“They just come in and eat,” said Sue Furney, director of finance and operations for the district.

This is the first time the district is offering the program which is state funded.

The district will be reimbursed, Furney said, based upon “how many meals we actually serve.”

“They’ll pay us so much per meal,” she said. “So our hope is we have enough volume to cover our costs.

“We think there is the need in the community,” Furney said, “if the word gets out there well enough.”

And if the need goes beyond the remote community of the Brandywine school district, lunches will be provided as well.

Furney said children do not have to be a student within the district to take part in the program.

“We will have a food service program person there,” she said. “They will prepare (lunches).”

Once the program is underway, Furney said the food service department will have to “guesstimate” just how many lunches might be needed. To start out, a sack lunch consisting of a sandwich, fruit, vegetable and milk will be offered.

Those choices may change once staff get a better idea of how many children on average may take advantage of the lunches.

After being notified that the district qualified to take part in the program, (a major qualifier being a population with 50 percent reduced lunch students) Furney said food service officials went through a one day training course at the state’s capital to prepare them and educate them on the program.

A program that could have a very significant impact on hungry tummies.

“During the school year, they (children) have a lunch available to them,” Furney said. “In the summertime, they don’t have a structured school program to provide that for them. So our question was – how many kids maybe aren’t eating a lunch at home?”

Some students may not even have lunch materials available to them, she said, especially if parents are unemployed or struggling to make ends meet.

Lunches will be served at Merritt Elementary School, 1620 LaSalle Ave. in Niles.

“Being at Merritt, there are a lot of small subdivisions around there that are in walking distance to kids,” Furney said.

Near or far, the district hopes to give kids that need it a healthy lunch this summer.

“We just encourage people to take advantage of it,” Furney said.

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