Jun 6, 2018

Summer Lunch Program Plates Up Healthy Meals

Students wait in line for pizza

On Monday, the air in Tussing Elementary School’s cafeteria carried the distinct aroma of pepperoni and echoed with the sounds and happy kids.

It was the second day of the Pickerington Schools Food Services Department’s annual June Summer Lunch Program. The meals are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and help ensure all children between ages 0 and 18 have access to a healthy lunch during summer months.

District Food Services Supervisor Judy Riley anticipates the program will serve an average of about 150 per day on weekdays in June, or about 3,500 to 4,000 meals during the month.

“It’s good to have the kids come through the line and get a nutritious, hot meal, and to know we’re serving fresh, healthy food to our students,” Riley said. “It just makes you feel good.”

More than one in four Pickerington students meets federal guidelines for free and reduced-price meals during the school year. During the school year, families of these students count on those meals to ensure children get at least one nutritious meal during the day. Without a program like the district’s summer lunch program, some of those same students might not be assured of a meal in the summer, Riley said.

Meals are available to all children without charge from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the 21 weekdays in June.

The Food Services Team even has special activity days planned during the month, including:

  • Donato’s Day each Monday;
  • Columbus Zoo Day on June 18;
  • visits and educational activities by the Ohio State University Extension Office on Tuesdays;
  • Pickerington Library days on Fridays; and
  • visits (with food samples) by representatives from some of the Food Services Department’s vendors on various days during the month.

Pickerington parent and Tussing Elementary School teacher’s aide Liz Hall not only volunteered to help with the program, she also brought along her two 13-year-old children to volunteer.

“I think this is a wonderful way to give back,” Hall said. “It’s always important to give back to the community, and I think the families appreciate it. They can come in and enjoy a nice meal, completely free, and some of these kids don’t have that at home. Being able to provide that is a wonderful thing.”

Pickerington High School Central senior Taylor Short also was volunteering to help with the program.

“We need volunteer hours for National Honor Society, and I love being around kids,” Short said. “It was a win-win situation. It definitely makes you feel good that, instead of just sleeping or chilling at my house, that I’m out helping kids this summer.”

She said she can absolutely see the benefit of a program like the summer lunch program.

“Obviously, this is important for kids,” Short said. “Food is the foundation for life, so it’s important that they get what’s good to help them.”