Poverty rising, schools increase free summer meals programRising poverty has led to a substantial increase in the number of schools participating in free summer meal programs for school-age kids.
By: Kristen Durst, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Rising poverty has led to a substantial increase in the number of schools participating in free summer meal programs for school-age kids.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federal program that reimburses school districts and community organizations for free meals that are served to kids in low income areas.
Amy Kolano is the statewide coordinator for the Department of Public Instruction.
“During the school year, many of the school-age children have access to nutritious meals through the national school lunch and school breakfast program,” she said. “When the regular school year ends, they have lost that resource.”
Kolano says the summer program fills that void, and it has grown significantly over the last five years as more schools and organizations become eligible.
“Last year was probably our largest that we’ve had yet,” she said. “We had 177 sponsors or agencies providing free meals to children [around] the state at over 700 different locations.”
To participate, an individual school has to have 50 percent or more of its students qualify for free and reduced lunches. Mary Loveless is the food service director in Baraboo. She says right now three of Baraboo’s public schools qualify to serve summer meals, and she anticipates that number will rise.
“District wide, we’re up to about 45 percent free and reduced [lunches] at this point,” Loveless said. “We seem to climb a little every year. Eventually, if we get to be 50 percent, as a district we can be anywhere we want to be.”
According to DPI, last summer over 2.3 million meals were served to kids in Wisconsin through the program. That’s up 40 percent from five years ago.
Locally, the summer meals program is available in Solon Springs, Minong and Superior. The Solon Springs site at East Side Neighborhood/Camp Bovey serves meals from 8-9 a.m., noon to 1 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 16. Northwood School in Minong serves meals from 8-8:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 16.
In Superior, food is served at Bryant, Cooper, Four Corners, Great Lakes, Northern Lights and Lake Superior elementary schools, the Cooper school playground, Superior High School, Superior Middle School, Heritage Skate Park, Wade Bowl Park, Webster Park, Hammond Park, the park at North 18th Street and Oakes Avenue, Gouge Park, Gullo Park, the Peter Rich Center, Bartley Manor, and the Boys & Girls Club of Superior. More information on the sites, and dates and times food is served, can be found at http://fns.dpi.wi.
Telegram writer Maria Lockwood contributed to this report.