Schools, parks to feed hungry children this summer

For many local students summer means bathing suits, lemonade stands and freedom from homework.

But for more than 26,000 Collier County students, summer means fewer meals and growling stomachs.

This summer the Collier County Public Schools Nutrition Services Department is teaming up with the Collier County Department of Parks and Recreation to provide the summer food service program to feed children in 18 locations across the county. The program, which begins next week, feeds all children under age 18 but aims to help the 62 percent of Collier students who often receive breakfast and lunch free of charge during the school year.

“We’re all in this together, to feed the children and feed them food they enjoy, that’s fresh and in some cases food that’s hot,” said Collier Schools Nutrition Services Director Dawn Houser. “That’s our goal.”

For the first time in years, the seven district sites will provide children with hot meals like pizza, cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches along with fruits and vegetables. In the past, the parks and recreation department ran the summer feeding program providing cold meals to children in more than 40 locations.

Budget constraints forced the parks and recreation department to cut back the number of sites from 40 to 11. The Collier County School Board along with Harry Chapin Food Bank and Meals for Hope chipped in this summer to make sure no kid goes hungry.

Houser anticipates the summer feeding program will provide 3,500 lunches a day between the 18 school and park locations. The Harry Chapin Food Bank site in Everglades City will provide free meals to not just children, but their families as well.

Meals for Hope is participating in the program for the first time this year. It will provide bag meals for children to take home to their families at all 18 school and park sites. The bags can feed six people.

“We all know that without this there would be families out there that would not have food this summer,” Houser said.

Kerry Runyon, regional manager for the parks and recreation department, said she saw the highest demand for free meals in 2009, at the height of the economic recession as families lost jobs and steady incomes.

Since then, Runyon said there has been a slight decline in demand for summer meals. She still anticipates certain sites, such as Golden Gate Community Center and Immokalee locations, to hand out more than 100 meals a day.

“We predominately see elementary and middle school students,” Runyon said. “But we even get walk-ins and little kids that have just started eating (solid) food.

“As long as they can eat, we serve them.”

The free breakfasts and lunches are available to all children 18 years and younger whether enrolled in summer school or not. The district limited the locations of the school sites to geographical areas of need where more than 50 percent of the children are economically needy and qualify for free or reduced priced meals during the school year.

The summer feeding program meals are paid for through an annual grant by the USDA. If the nutrition services department needs to increase the number of meals the program provides, they’ll do whatever it takes, Houser said.

“There’s such a desperate need for it,” she said.

Summer Food Program Locations

Collier County Public Schools Sites

Monday through Thursday

Mike Davis Elementary (open June 11 to August 2) — 3215 Magnolia Pond Drive (377-9032)

Big Cypress Elementary (open June 18 to July 26) — 3250 Golden Gate Boulevard N. (377-6318)

Monday through Friday (open June 11 to August 3)

Golden Gate High — 2925 Titan Way (377-1656)

Immokalee High — 701 Immokalee Drive, Immokalee (377-1943)

Lake Trafford Elementary — 3500 Lake Trafford Road, Immokalee (377-7355)

Parkside Elementary — 5322 Texas Ave. (377-8995)

Pinecrest Elementary — 313 9th Street S., Immokalee (377-8083)

Collier County Parks and Recreation Sites

Monday through Thursday

Village Oaks Elementary (open June 25 to July 26) — 1601 S.R. 29, Immokalee

Grace Place (June 18 to July 26) — 4300 21st Ave. S.W., Golden Gate

Monday through Friday (open June 11 to August 3)

Immokalee Community Park — 321 N. First St., Immokalee

Immokalee South Park — 418 School Dr., Immokalee

Highlands Elementary — 1101 Lake Trafford Road, Immokalee

East Naples Community Park — 3500 Thomasson Dr.

Golden Gate Community Center — 4701 Golden Gate Parkway

Max Hasse Community Park — 3390 Golden Gate Blvd. W.

Manatee Elementary — 1880 Manatee Road

Lely Elementary — 8125 Lely Cultural Pkwy

River Park — 301 11th St. N.

Breakfast and lunch times vary per location. For more information contact one of the locations listed above or the Nutrition Services Department at 239-377-0280.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features