CCPS plans to ex­pand sum­mer meals pro­gram in In­dian Head

Maryland Independent - - News - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: Tif­fIndyNews

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.

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