Janesville School District expects to serve 75,000 meals this summer
JANESVILLE The Janesville School District has expanded its summer program that feeds children whose bellies might otherwise go empty.
The district projects it will serve 75,000 meals this summer, up from 57,000 last summer and 20,000 the summer before, said Jim Degan, the district’s food services and nutrition manager.
The summer meals program had run the same dates as summer school, ending in July. Now, it runs through most of August. Summer school sites serve breakfasts as well as lunch.
Degan said he pushed to expand the program because, “If children were hungry, they had to be hungry through August.”
About half the district’s students qualify for free or reduced-priced meals during the school year. The proportion of students meeting family-income guidelines for subsidized lunch has grown nearly every year for 20 years. It showed signs of leveling off the past two years.
The summer meal sites are scattered throughout the city, concentrated in areas where most subsidized meals are served during the school year.
“It’s meeting a need in the community, and I’m just glad we have the ability to do it,” Degan said.
Typical meals are cold sandwiches or wraps, fruits, vegetables and treats such as whole-grain chips or graham-style cookies.
About 2,900 meals are served weekdays through July 3. That number shrinks to 1,100 or so for the rest of the summer, Degan said.
Children up to age 18 need only show up, and they are fed, Degan said. That’s different from the school-year meals program, which supplies free or reduced-price meals to students whose families apply and who have low incomes that meet federal guidelines.
That means not all the students getting fed this summer are actually in need.
“The good outweighs the negative of people taking advantage,” Degan said.
The program complies with federal rules, however, and most of the funding is federal. The Second Harvest program provides a small supplement, Degan said. No local or state tax dollars are used.
Expenses include a rental truck to deliver meals and 32 part-time workers, Degan said. The meals program runs at 16 locations through July 3. It continues at seven locations in the poorest parts of town through Aug. 21.
“I wish we were in a society where children would not miss meals and not go hungry, but that’s not the way of the world,” Degan said.