While students revel in summer’s freedom from full-time classes, the Janesville School District’s food service staff keeps working to make sure those kids eat.
The summer meal program, sponsored by the district and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gives area students free breakfasts and lunches on weekdays.
“When kids aren’t in school, they might not have the access to healthy food that we can give them. It’s just another way to get services to children that need them,” said Patrick Gasper, district public information officer.
Most of the meals are made in the Craig High School kitchen, but some schools make their own. The meals change each day, but they still must meet federal standards for daily nutrients and ingredients.
Some meals are set aside for children with allergies.
Children have to eat the meals at the sites that serve them, but that doesn’t stop students who live across the city from taking advantage. More than a dozen schools in the district, as well as Hedberg Public Library and the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville, serve meals in summertime.
For 14-year-old David Devine, the summer meal program works perfectly.
Devine has taken summer school classes at Craig for the last few years, and being able to eat afterward is a welcome bonus.
“I think it’s nice to be able to get food after class,” Devine said. “I like it.”
The program has no sign-up or payment requirement for kids. Anyone ages 18 and younger can eat for free.
Adults with mental or physical disabilities who participate in a public or private nonprofit school program are also able to eat. They pay a small fee for lunch.
Ann Pilgrim, who works with the district’s food service, said staffers make just shy of 800 meals a day when summer school is in session.
The numbers drop off after summer school ends, but Pilgrim said it’s clear that the program makes a difference for many families.
“I’d say it’s huge because I think that a lot of families have parents that are working,” she said, “… and this program provides assurance that they (kids) have something to eat and won’t be at home eating junk food all day.”
The program ends Aug. 16.