When school let out for summer, a Franklin mom started stocking up on healthy snacks for her children.
But the cost of those fresh fruits and vegetables quickly adds up. And with only one income, their family food budget was already tight.
That’s why Kirsten Patterson takes three of her children to get lunch during the summer nearly every day at Countryview Mobile Home Community, one of six sites where free meals are provided through a Franklin schools program.
Without the yearly program, Patterson would be forced to buy cheaper junk food to make sure her kids had enough to eat, she said.
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“We always figured it out, it may have been cheaper things,” she said.
For the past several years, Greenwood, Franklin and Clark-Pleasant schools have fed hundreds of children every week through their summer feeding programs. Edinburgh United Methodist Church for the first time is opening a weekly feeding site, and is feeding 40 to 60 students each week, pastor Sean Johnson said.
The USDA reimburses the schools for meals that students eat, and their parents can get a meal for less than $5. Schools that have more than 50 percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch are eligible for the program.
So far this summer, the weather has been relatively dry, which has allowed more students to get out and get a free lunch, local food service directors said.
Northwood Elementary School in Franklin has served 500 more breakfasts and 600 more lunches, compared to June of last year. Two hundred more meals were served at the feeding site at Countryview, food services director Jill Overton said.
About 450 students are eating a meal at Clark-Pleasant’s six sites, which is more than last year, food services director Kim Combs said.
The weather is better this summer, which typically improves attendance. If the weather is wet, like it was last summer, outdoor sites will have to cancel and children might not have transportation to go to another site, she said.
About 40 students grab a free lunch daily at Isom Elementary School in Greenwood. Last year, about 20 students would eat at the site at Northeast Elementary School, said Cheryl Hargis, director of food services.
The change of location may be enticing more students to come. And more people are learning about the program, she said.
“People are realizing that there is food for them,” she said.
One of the continuing struggles school officials have faced is finding the best locations for feeding sites, that will be convenient for the most children.
More students in Franklin are getting free meals at the Countryview Mobile Home Park, since more families with children have moved into the community recently, Overton said.
But other sites are struggling to get students. Franklin North Village Apartments was added as a site this summer after Overton found that 86 kids were riding the bus during the school year from those apartments. But only about seven go to get lunch there, she said.
“There is a whole heck of a lot more that could take advantage,” she said.
New sites can struggle their first year, and the apartments don’t have a centrally located playground where students can congregate. The clubhouse, where the meals are offered, is away from most of the apartments, she said. And parents may not be home and don’t want their children to leave the apartment during the day, she said.
Overton has driven through the complex at lunch time to tell children she sees that a free lunch is available, she said.
“It is our first year there, and I think we always struggle a little bit,” she said.
Children 18 years old or younger or adults with mental or physical disabilities can receive free lunches this summer through four programs:
When: Through July 15, with no meals served on Monday (due to the holiday)
Break-O-Day Elementary School, 900 Sawmill Road, New Whiteland, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Pleasant Crossing Elementary School, 3030 N. County Road 125W, Whiteland, 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Greenwood Estates, 1642 S. U.S. 31, Greenwood, 11:15 to 11:45 a.m.
Summerfield Park, 275 W. Worthsville Road, Greenwood, 12:45 to 1:15 p.m.
Village Crossing Apartments, 20 Village Crossing Drive, Greenwood, 11 to 11:15 a.m.
Pebble Creek Community, 225 Pebble Creek Drive, Greenwood, 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.
When: 12 to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through July 26
Where: Edinburgh Parks and Recreation Center, 722 Eisenhower Drive, Edinburgh
When: Through July 29, with no meals served on Monday (due to the holiday)
Northwood Elementary School, 965 Grizzly Cub Drive, Franklin, 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Traditions Apartments, 1600 Traditions Court, Franklin, 11:20 to 11:40 a.m.
Countryview Mobile Home Community, 1199 Hospital Road, Franklin, 11:30 to 11:50 a.m.
Franklin Cove, 2015 Franklin Cove Court, Franklin, 11:50 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.
Northwood Apartments of Franklin, 2018 Cedar Lane, Franklin, 12:25 to 12:45 p.m.
Franklin North Village, 57 Schoolhouse Road, Franklin, 12 to 12:20 p.m.
When: Through July 22, with no meals served on Monday (due to the holiday)
Isom Elementary School, 50 E. Broadway Drive, Greenwood, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.