KOSCIUSKO — Local school officials have announced they will continue to participate in a statewide program designed to ensure good nutrition to area children during the months when classrooms may be closed.
The Summer Food Service Program, an initiative of the Indiana Department of Education, has been providing nutritious meals and snacks to school-age children for more than 40 years. Last year, more than 270 Indiana sponsors delivered more than three million meals and snacks at more than 1,400 locations.
The program is not lost on local school corporations.
“In cooperation with the Indiana Department of Education, we have offered the Summer Meals Program in our schools at Akron Elementary, Mentone Elementary, and Tippecanoe Valley High School for several years,” said Brett Boggs, superintendent at Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation. “We conduct an extensive summer school program in these three buildings that runs from the morning into the early afternoon. The Summer Meals Program allows many of those children to enjoy two delicious and nutritious meals in our schools.”
Warsaw students are not without this same opportunity, according to Warsaw Community School Corporation’s Food and Nutrition Director Marci Franks.
“This summer marks the 12th year that Warsaw Community Schools Food and Nutrition Services has provided meals during the summer,” Franks said. “We serve breakfast and lunch to our students enrolled in summer school, in addition to lunches at Bixler Park on Center Lake and Winona Lake Park. We also provide meals to Baker Youth Club and the YMCA during the summer for youth programs. The Warsaw program, outside of summer school, was started as a result of teachers and staff noting the eagerness of students eating meals during the summer school sessions.”
The Summer Food Service Program reimburses participating schools and other sponsors and is available to children 18 years and younger. The plan is aimed toward children in that age group as well as areas in the state deemed to have average income below the state average. The program is available to not only schools, but also public and private nonprofit groups, local governments, religious organizations, summer camps and recreation centers. And while the meals are aimed toward low-income school children, some adults benefit as well.
“Of course, the Summer Meals Program serves more than just our summer school students,” said Boggs. “We serve meals to many children and adults from the community that come to our schools for breakfast and lunch.
“Tippecanoe Valley is pleased to offer such an important service to our students and the community by providing nutritious meals in a safe and secure setting. This program definitely makes a difference in our community.”
According to Franks, participation in Warsaw’s program is enthusiastic.
“More than a few would ask for seconds for later or ask if they could save some to take home with them,” Franks said. “Many students qualifying for free or reduced meal benefits during the school year simply don’t have the same resources available in the summer. Summer vacation does not always mean fun in the sun to many children, but rather an increased risk of hunger and developmental decline. Our purpose in making this program available to more children is to help meet basic nutritional needs and to help lower income children return to school ready to learn.”