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Free lunch for children in the summer
by Patrice Walsh
There is such a thing as a free lunch and in school districts that qualify, it is open to all children. No questions asked. No identification or proof of income needed.
The program is funded by the USDA. The goal is to make sure kids dont go hungry during the summer months.
The free meals are available in Gates, East Irondequoit and East Rochester based on need. More than 50 percent of their students get free or reduced lunches.
Hot meals are served in the morning and afternoon. Some parents bring their children and even pay to eat themselves. They tell us the food choices are healthy and tasty.
Since its difficult to reach out only to those in need, the program is open to all children in the district.
Many we talked to who enjoyed lunch said they could afford to buy lunch but this is convenient and available and helps their families save money.
A few parents told us after spouses lost jobs, the daily free meals for their children have become a necessity.
Mealball sub was the hot meal for lunch on Thursday. We found people staggered in a few at a time. The Program Director says they serve an average of 150 children a day for breakfast and 350 for lunch, but since they come at different times, its tough to measure how many are taking advantage of the program on a daily basis.
Similar programs around the country have been criticized because they arent well-attended and critics said the food is often wasted.
Debbie Beauvais, the Director of Nutrition Services at Gates-Chili , East Rochester, and East Irondequoit School Districts said this is the third year they have done this program. Although she said it took awhile to catch on, she said it is well-attended now.
But because the biggest challenge is that many dont know about these programs, Beauvais said the school districts have made a point to get the word out. They post signs, including a neon one on the marquis outside Gates-Chili High School. They also do robocalls to every home in the district telling people that free meals are available everyday in the cafeteria, beginning at 9:15 a.m. for breakfast and 10:45 a..m. for lunch.