Pub­lic schools take kids out to lunch

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­ Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

For hun­dreds of chil­dren across Charles County, lunch is on Charles County Pub­lic Schools this sum­mer.

For the sev­enth year, CCPS has pro­vided week­day sum­mer lunches to chil­dren free of charge through what is now called the “Lunch on Us” pro­gram. It runs this year from now un­til Aug. 12.

The meals are funded through a USDA child nu­tri­tion pro­gram aimed at pro­vid­ing healthy meals to chil­dren 18 and younger through sum­mer va­ca­tion, while re­lated costs are funded through the Gover­nor’s Of­fice for Chil­dren and the Charles County Ad­vo­cacy Coun­cil for Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies, said Jen­nifer Conte, co­or­di­na­tor of stu­dent in­ter­ven­tion pro­grams.

Any Charles County res­i­dent 18 years or younger is el­i­gi­ble, and there are no in­come re­quire­ments or ver­i­fi­ca­tions needed, Conte said.

“You just have to be 18 or younger, no ques­tions asked,” Conte said.

Hot meals are pro­vided at four school sites, while cold bagged lunches are pro­vided at 10 sites through­out the county.

Trans­porta­tion is not pro­vided, ex­cept for the Mt. Hope/Nan­je­moy site, due to its re­mote­ness, Conte said.

Bagged lunches are de­liv­ered daily to sites by CCPS school buses and vans — many equipped with re­frig­er­a­tion dur­ing the sum­mer.

“It’s so that par­ents know the food is com­ing from a place that’s safe,” said Crys­tal So­pher, CCPS su­per­vi­sor of food nu­tri­tion. “It’s al­most like the ice cream truck but with­out the mu­sic.”

CCPS part­ners with the Charles County Ad­vo­cacy Coun­cil for Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies, the Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety, the Charles County gov­ern­ment agen­cies, Life­Styles Inc., and other agen­cies to op­er­ate the “Lunch on Us” pro­gram.

The Charles County Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety is one of the bagged lunch host sites, and has been since the pro­gram’s in­cep­tion, So­pher said.

“A lot of the fam­i­lies we see are low in­come, and it’s hard to pro­vide for them to pro­vide ev­ery meal ev­ery day, so this is an awe­some pro­gram, and we’re happy to be part­ners with them,” said Danielle Wil­moth, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Chil­dren’s Aid So­ci­ety.

The pro­gram served ap­prox­i­mately 8,000 lunches to stu­dents last sum­mer, Conte said, and ex­pects to serve more this year.

J.P. Ryon Ele­men­tary School is a new hot meal site, and had ap­prox­i­mately 150 at­ten­dees last week, So­pher said.

“J.P. Ryon has al­ready shown it­self to be a very busy site,” Conte said.

So­pher said the pro­gram helps fam­i­lies stretch their food bud­gets dur­ing the sum­mer when chil­dren are out of school.

“We know that there’s a need in Charles County,” So­pher said. “We feed close to 6,000 [free and re­duced meals] dur­ing the school year, so we know that the need ex­ists in Charles County, so this kind of bridges the gap be­tween when school ends and when school starts back up again.”

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