Summer meal program sees spike in attendance in 2018

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World graphic

Meals served at Douglas County Fuel Up 4 Summer sites, 2015-2018. Numbers provided by Michelle Heller, SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County; chart made with Google Sheets.

The Douglas County area’s summer meal program this year served the most meals it has since it was introduced in 2015 — 48,955, to be exact.

The program — branded Fuel Up 4 Summer — provides free lunches for anyone ages 1-18, and it also serves breakfast and dinner at some of the 11 sites in Lawrence and Lecompton. Its goal is to fill the gap when schools aren’t in session so that kids whose families depend on the meals served in schools won’t have to go without.

According to a news release from the local Summer Food Service Program planning committee, the SFSP saw a 20 percent increase in meals served in 2018 after hitting a low of 40,655 meals in 2017.

The Lawrence Public Library meal site served the highest number of lunches this year at more than 10,000, the release said. Some of the sites also gave kids a chance to participate in an inflatable obstacle course, adding some active playtime.

Michelle Heller, SNAP-Ed nutrition educator with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, said in an email that she and other members of the SFSP planning committee hope to continue to build on that success.

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“This year we hope to increase programming activities to give youth not enrolled in a formal summer program an opportunity to be active in a safe environment and have a healthy meal,” she said.

Further, Heller said the program will expand into Baldwin City next year. She said that based on last year’s socio-economic data, Baldwin City now qualifies for the program.

The SFSP, which is organized by 18 local city, county and nonprofit entities working together, is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Heller also noted that, of course, the need for healthy meals is a year-round challenge for many families. She and other members of the Healthy Food For All work group of LiveWell Douglas County compiled a community resource guide that comprises nearly 20 pages of services for food, health care, housing, clothing and more. That guide is available at or below in PDF form.

For more information about the summer meal program, visit Also, Heller can be reached at 785-843-7058 or



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