Schools prepare summer servings for hungry kids

Schools have shifted where students can come for a free lunch this summer with the goal of getting more children fed.

Franklin and Clark-Pleasant schools have removed summer lunch locations that didn’t draw as many children and added new spots that they expect will be more accessible to parents in need of a free meal for their kids.

Schools that have at least half of their students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches can offer summer meals to any child 18 and younger and have the costs reimbursed through the USDA. For each of the past two summers, about 32,000 meals have been served across the county.

Franklin food service worker Victoria McCormick scoops fruit onto a lunch tray during the summer feeding program at Northwood Elementary School in 2017. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
L- R Franklin food service workers Penny Wickliff and Victoria McCormick serve lunch during the summer feeding program at Northwood Elementary School in 2017. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
L- R Franklin food service workers Penny Wickliff and Victoria McCormick serve lunch during the summer feeding program at Northwood Elementary School in 2017. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
L- R Franklin food service workers Penny Wickliff and Victoria McCormick serve lunch during the summer feeding program at Northwood Elementary School in 2017. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

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Clark-Pleasant, Franklin and Greenwood are offering nine locations for meals. In Edinburgh, a girl scout is working with her church to provide meals for students in the community, as non-profit organizations can qualify for meal reimbursement in communities with a high rate of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches.

For the past several years, Franklin schools have served lunches at four apartment complexes. The goal was to bring meals to an area where kids might be able to get them without needing to have their parents bring them, food services director Jill Overton said.

But the number of meals served in those locations never got as high as expected, and this year, she is hoping that a partnership with the Johnson County Public Library will lead to more families taking advantage of the free meals, with as many as 100 kids getting meals there every day.

The shelter house at Payne Park will be the other new location in Franklin, Overton said.

At Northwood Elementary School, which serves breakfast as well as lunch, families will need to use a new route to get to the school. Due to construction, they’ll have to use the back entrance off of Clark Street, Overton said.

Clark-Pleasant schools is closing a site at Greenwood Estates, a mobile home community near U.S. 31 and Worthsville Road, Clark-Pleasant Schools assistant superintendent John Schilawski said.

And the meal site normally hosted at Break-O-Day Elementary is moving to Sawmill Woods Preschool, he said.

In Edinburgh, a girl scout is working with Edinburgh United Methodist Church to offer lunches twice a week to children and their parents in the community. Abby Sweet, 17-year-old who will be a senior at Southwestern High School next year, is organizing the lunches as a girl scout project to earn the gold award, which is the equivalent of an Eagle Scout project.

Two years ago, the church had worked to offer summer meals to children, and as she was brainstorming projects she could do to help the community for her Girl Scout project she decided that this was something she wanted to restart for the summer, Sweet said.

Getting the program started required filing paperwork with the USDA, attending a class, organizing volunteers and raising money. She raised about $1,300 from local businesses that will cover providing free meals to adults. The church is providing the initial money to pay for the meals, which will be reimbursed by the USDA. And the Edinburgh Park and Recreation Department is letting volunteers use a shelter house to serve the meals.

Besides offering the lunches, Sweet will play games with the kids and provide them health and nutritional information to take home, she said.

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