Public schools take kids out to lunch
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.”