Lawrence school district begins summer meal program with two daily lunch locations and weekly take-home meal kits

photo by: Lawrence Public Schools

USD 497 staff and volunteers distribute meal kits on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at the Youth Sports Complex 4911 W. 27th St. in Lawrence.

School is out for summer, but more than 1,000 Lawrence children are getting a near-daily reminder of local schools nonetheless.

It often comes with a spoon and fork.

Lawrence Public Schools’ free summer meals program began on Monday with two daily lunch locations and a weekly distribution of meal kits. Essentially, any child in the city can take advantage of the daily lunch program, and more than 1,000 already have in its first week.

“We intend to serve any child in the community who could benefit from free meals,” Julie Henry, director of nutrition and wellness with the district, said in an email to the Journal-World.

Residents ages 1-18 can eat free Monday through Friday on-site at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., from 11 a.m. to noon and at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., from noon to 1 p.m. Adults may purchase meals for $5. No registration is required, according to the district’s website. The program is set to run through July 26.

Many children are taking advantage of not only the drop-in meal site, but also the district service that prepares meal kits in advance for children.

On Tuesday, the first day of the meal kit program, the district’s nutrition and wellness staff, facilities and operations warehouse crew, mental health team members and other employee volunteers distributed 10,650 meals to 1,065 individuals, according to a post from the district on social media.

The district had 10,646 students enrolled in grades K-12 in the 2023 school year, said district spokesperson Julie Boyle, while the district’s early childhood programs served 559 pre-K children this year, meaning the meal kit program is serving the equivalent of about 10% of students in the district.

Guidelines for who can use the meal kit program, and details on how to access it, are a bit different than the daily, on-site lunch program.

Meal kits are being distributed every Tuesday where the district provides five days of breakfasts and lunches at no cost between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the Youth Sports Complex, 4911 W. 27th St. The meals include cold breakfasts and lunches that can be heated in the oven or microwave. Registration is required for the weekly kits and the program is limited to those who are not already enrolled in another summer meal program, according to the district’s website. The meal kits do need refrigeration.

The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Henry, the district’s director of nutrition and wellness, said via email. Henry said the program is open to all children regardless of their background and that all families can benefit from having access to free summer meals. She said it is meant to ensure that all children in the area have access to healthy food when school is not in session.

There’s a fundamental reason why the district participates in the program, Henry said.

“In order for children to learn, grow, and thrive, they need good nutrition,” Henry said.

photo by: Lawrence Public Schools

USD 497 staff and volunteers distribute meal kits on Tuesday, June 4, 2024, at the Youth Sports Complex 4911 W. 27th St. in Lawrence.


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