School Program Offers Free Meals to Students During Summer
Workers with the Reynoldsburg City School District are cleaning up after preparing about 400 meals on this sunny Friday morning. In about 30 minutes, students from all around the neighborhood will start to file into the high school to grab a warm lunch and hangout with their friends.
This is a daily routine for the district staff during the summer weekdays and while any school-aged kid can grab a meal, the food is especially important for students who usually get free or reduced lunches during the school year.
Langenhop: “When the summer comes they don’t come to school anymore and yet their families don’t have any more money to buy food in the summer so you see an increased impact on food banks. And what we’re trying to do is try to help kids get meals during the summer.”
That’s Mary Lou Langenhop, she’s the president and CEO of the Children’s Hunger Alliance, a group that helps provide meals to kids in all of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Today the alliance and other organizations are celebrating a major step forward in in their effort. That’s because the school districts can now use their own buses to deliver meals to children that live further away.
Langenhop: “Now we’re using a resource that already exists—money that’s already been spent on a school bus to actually transport the meals to the kids.”
But this wasn’t always the case, the rules used to say that these vehicles could not be used as mobile meal sites because kids aren’t allowed to eat on school buses.
So the alliance sought help from the Common Sense Initiative, also known as CSI, it’s a state entity that tries to clear up over-regulation in Ohio’s code. Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor, who leads the CSI office, says this was an example of a rule that needed revised.
Taylor: “So we worked with the Department of Education—we worked with the hunger alliance and with various state agencies to make sure these rules made sense—that these people who feel really strongly about making sure that we can provide summer meals are able to get out in the community and feed our kids.”
Increased safety is an added benefit to the new delivery system. Some kids would have to cross several busy intersections in order to get to the high school for lunch. Now the school buses can bring the meals to them.
Reynoldsburg City Schools was the first to take advantage of the new rules regarding school buses. Now other districts, like Cincinnati schools, are considering such an effort.
These programs around the state are sponsored by federal dollars from the USDA. Tricia Moore, with Reynoldsburg, says clearing up the school bus rules means the district did not have to seek any local or state subsidies.
Because it’s Friday the kids in Reynoldsburg also get a backpack stuffed with food that can last them through the weekend.