Keeping free lunches going in the summer

Posted at 7:06 PM, May 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-27 10:49:52-04

With three kids out of school for the summer, Heather Garber tries to keep them out of the house and active. So, they spend a lot of time at Loomis Park.

"It's a variety of different age things for them to do there. So, that's why I usually pick it, it's one of the bigger parks," she explained.

And when they're there, Garber doesn't have to worry about trying to provide her kids with a good lunch.

"Because it's already there and it's a healthy lunch," she said.

Loomis Park is just one of 43 spots across town where kids under the age of 18 can grab a free meal Monday through Friday from June 20th to August 12th.

"In today's economy, a lot of parents are having to stretch their budget farther and farther," explained Jackson Public Schools Food Services Director, Brant Russell. "So, this is a good way for them to be able to utilize the program, get kids out, get 'em active, we have a lot of programs at many of our sites for activities."

But, he said not every kid has been taking advantage of the summer program. Throughout the school year, they serve 4,200 kids. But, last summer only 1,600 kids grabbed a meal.

"We're hoping to grow that to about 2,000 this year," he said. "We tried to make our sites throughout the city, so that we were in walking distance for most of the neighborhoods."

But, Russell said, many are still going hungry.

"Some days probably yes. I mean it's sad, but true," he said. "So, we're trying to make sure everybody knows."

To not only save parents the cost of 40-plus meals per child, but also to keep each child healthy.

"If we can keep kids fed, healthy and just active, they come back to school much more ready to learn and much more ready to do well in school," Russell said.

The Meet Up & Eat Up program is available in most counties.

To find the location closest to you click here.