Archive for Saturday, May 24, 1997

SUMMER FOOD PROGRAM STARTS IN LAWRENCE

May 24, 1997

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A summer program will ensure children won't go hungry.

A cooperative venture that starts in about a week is designed to ensure that no child is hungry this summer.

The program, called the Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, will offer free lunches to children 18 and younger at five sites in the city. In addition, adults will be provided lunch at a $2 charge.

The program involves the cooperation of several governmental entities, as well as local social service agencies.

"I am very excited about this program," said Lawrence school board member Renee Karr. "I think it will fill a need that we may see as things diminish from other sources."

Providing free lunches to children during the summer simply makes sense, said Diane Plunkett, chair of the local committee spearheading the summer food program.

The sites are within school boundaries where 50 percent or more of the children qualify for free- or reduced-priced lunches through a federal program. In the local district, 27.5 percent of students qualify for free- or reduced-priced lunches.

Just because school is out, children's families don't necessarily have more money for food, said Plunkett, who is a nutrition assistant with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. But children do not have to live in certain areas of town to eat free. No registration is required.

The one-year pilot program has earned the praise of Jeanette Armstrong, the school district's food service director.

"It's one of the few things that I've seen going on in Lawrence that there is cross-cooperation going on among a number of different agencies," she said. "Whoever comes to that site between 12 and one o'clock will get a free lunch."

The school district is providing the food for the program, which is being offered on a trial basis this year. The district will be reimbursed fully through the federal government's Summer Food Program.

"At this point, it's not costing anyone locally any money," Plunkett said.

Lunch will consist of a sack lunch that's fixed at the East Heights School kitchen, Armstrong said. Volunteers from the Kansas University Center for Community Outreach will staff each site, along with staff members from the city's playground program.

Although it's tough to predict how many children and adults will take advantage of the program, Armstrong and Plunkett estimate 300 to 500 people will be fed each day.

"It's a nice, simple program meeting kids' needs through a variety of agencies and efforts," Armstrong said.

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