Summer lunch programs serving biggest crowds ever - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Summer lunch programs serving biggest crowds ever

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It's that time of year again, free summer lunch programs are up and running all over Michiana.

Jill Riggs, Penn Harris Madison Schools director of food services says there is definitely a need and numbers this year for their lunch crowds are higher than ever. 

At Mishawaka sites, she says they are serving 600 meals a day now, but that number will exceed 1,000 by July. "A lot of these kids get free and reduced meals during the school year which means they have breakfast and lunch with us everyday all school year Monday thru Friday and then all of the sudden you turn them loose for the summer and families don't have food for them."

She says anyone under 18 can get these free daily lunches. "Anybody can come to it we don't ask for ID, we don't ask your income and we don't ask your name, anybody can walk up."

The same applies for South Bend Community Schools, nutrition education facilitator, Karen Case says it's a service any family can take advantage of. "It's so important to children and families because they're used to getting that nutritious meal at school during the school year and then summer comes."

She says their summer crowds are bigger than ever this year. They're already serving around 3,300 meals a day. "In the past couple years, the way the economy has been, it's a great help for families to have this extra support out here, especially take some load off their food budget."

Elkhart Community Schools have a growing lunch program as well. This summer they're serving at 29 sites.

All summer long, lunches are offered five days a week, rain or shine. To find dates and locations for summer food services in your area, visit the IDOE website, or call 211.

In Indiana, more than one million children are left without the benefit of the National School Lunch Program, which provides free or reduced-price meals. That's why he United States Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program steps in.  The program helps Schools, parks, and private nonprofits to provide healthy meals for families in need.

"Feeding programs are vital to education.  Hungry kids cannot learn or retain knowledge effectively," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.  "Good nutrition is essential for learning in school, but hunger does not take a summer vacation.  I am honored to have the Indiana Department of Education actively involved in these programs.  They are critical to the well-being of Indiana's children."

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