CCPS plans to expand summer meals program in Indian Head
Of the 775 students in Indian Head eligible for free or reduced lunch during the school year, only 100 children continue to receive meals during the summer — a statistic Charles County Public Schools hopes to change.
According Charles County Public Schools Food Services, the county provides approximately 5,800 students with free or reduced lunch during the school year, with 775 of those students attending school in Indian Head. Representatives with a local meal program attended the Indian Head Town Council meeting this week to make residents aware of available food resources in the coming summer months.
Crystal Sopher, food and nutrition service supervisor for CCPS, presented information about the summer meals program, “Lunch On Us,” to the council and Indian Head residents, and asked for their help in getting more people in Indian Head involved.
“Many Indian Head residents don’t have access to other means, because there’s no grocery store and there’s a lot of people that have to walk to get what they need from the dollar store,” Sopher said. “Many of the people don’t know this program exists, especially on this side of the county. We wanted to come and share it with the town members in hopes that they would be willing to come and give us a try.”
“Lunch On Us” is a summer meals program provided by Charles County Public Schools and other partnerships including the Department of Social Services, LifeStyles Inc. and the Charles County Health Department. Hot lunches are served Monday through Friday, June 27 through Aug. 12. Times and locations vary depending on the site. The program is provided throughout the county to ages 18 and younger.
Currently, the program has two different types of locations available to the public: open sites and a mobile meals program. The open sites include Henry E. Lackey High School, Charles Landing Apartments and Woodland Village Park. The mobile meals program is a bus that drives around the communities providing bagged lunches, which must be consumed on-site.
“The program provides hot meals for everyone on the western side of the county,” Indian Head Mayor Brandon Paulin said. “Hunger is quite often a national problem because they aren’t able to access food if they are not in school. This is absolutely something that we want to encourage as a town. It’s something that I think could definitely be used more often. I do like the fact that it grows over at Lackey High School and it is something that we will be able to push.”
Sopher said her determination to increase the amount of free lunches served to local students during the summer, as well as her previous residency in Indian Head, has led her to push for more participation in the area this year.
“Waldorf is bigger, but we do have sites here in Indian Head and we want to make sure the kids are getting to them,” Sopher said. “We didn’t get much participation from our Indian Head sites in the previous years. As we all know, transportation becomes our largest barrier in the county. We can only be so many places in the time allotted for lunch and we need to make sure that we get the meals to where they need to be. This year we are going to do better.”
The council recognized there is definitely a need in the town for summer meals, and “Lunch On Us” helps ease the gap between the last day of school and first day back.
“We have a great need in the town for the summer meals program,” said Councilman Curtis Smith. “The students still need to eat and that need doesn’t go away for the summer. I am glad that Sopher came to speak at the town meeting because I wanted to get involved in understanding where the food shortage areas are and try to get more information out to people about this program that barely anyone knew about.”
“Indian Head has a lot of children, and we don’t want children to go hungry just because school is not session,” Vice Mayor Ron Sitoula said. “Hunger affects everything, including a child’s ability to learn and participate in daily activities, so this problem is particularly important in Indian Head. I saw firsthand how successful it is for the children to go to Lackey High School as a site and receive free lunch. They can do other activities such as play, exercise, and they are away from trouble while in a learning environment. Plus it helps parents financially while the children get a free, hot meal. What more could you ask for?”
For more information on “Lunch On Us,” such as menus, times and sites, go to www.ccboe.com. Search for sites at www. mdsummermeals.org.