Dowagiac to offer free lunch this summerPublished 9:28am Thursday, June 12, 2014
Though the last bell for school year rang across the halls yesterday afternoon, lunch will still be on the district for the summer.
This year, Dowagiac Union Schools is participating in the Michigan Department of Education’s “Meet Up and Eat Up” food program, which provides funding to district’s to ensure that children continue to have a steady lunch or breakfast during the three-month long summer break.
Starting on Monday, employees with food services will be distributing free lunchtime meals for children 18 and younger throughout the school district. Adults up to the age of 26 who are engaged in special education programs will also be eligible to receive a free meal.
“There are going to be sack lunches, which will contain a sandwich, a vegetable, a piece of fruit and their choice of milk,” said Deb Cahill, general manager for student nutrition services
Rather than limiting the distribution to a single
location, crews will be loading up the bagged lunches inside one of school’s minivans and hitting the road, stopping at five different spots within the city once a day.
The lists of locations are:
• 11–11:30 a.m., Rotary Park on Riverside Drive
• 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m., Water Tower Park on Helena Street
• 12-12:30 p.m., TBA
• 12:30-1 p.m. ACTION Ministries at 301 Main Street
• 1-1:30 p.m., Walter Ward Park at 309 Thickstun Street
In prior years, the school district held a similar free lunch program, but the distributions were constrained to a single school, Cahill said. Drawing upon her experience working with schools in New York City, Cahill decided to take the mobile approach instead for this year.
“After realizing the geographic locations of our schools and where our students were at, it didn’t make sense to do it at one particular location, given our demographics,” she said.
Starting out, employees will be packing 500 lunches a day to hand out, to see what kind of demand they’ll have with local kids, Cahill said.
“We’ll have a better idea once we start doing this,” she said. “If we need to make more, we’ll make more.”
They will also be teaming with the Dowagiac Fire Department and ACTION to provide activities on certain days, Cahill said.
In addition to these drop-offs, beginning on June 23, the district will open up the daily hot breakfast (8:30-9:30 a.m.), lunches (12-1 p.m.) and snacks (3-3:30 p.m.) served at Sister Lakes Elementary during their summer and migrant student classes to any child in the community. Parental supervision is strongly encouraged for younger children attending the sessions.
While this is the first time the school is implementing this type of program, Cahill and her staff are excited for the opportunity to feed some hungry students this summer, she said.
“A child with food in their belly is a much happier child,” Cahill said. “We want them to concentrate on just being a kid and having fun, and not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”