A Greenwood family will have more money to pay their bills by taking their three children to school for some of their meals this summer.
Cassandra Robinson has lived in the Clark-Pleasant school district for two years with her husband and three kids. Earlier this year she was concerned about how her family would afford the cost of food for everyone while her husband, a truck driver, was out of work for two months.
This summer Robinson found out about the summer feeding program at Pleasant Crossing Elementary School. The school provides free lunch to anyone 18 and under during the summer. And that means Robinson and her husband can save about $200 per week on groceries.
“Financially it’s saved us. Times are hard,” she said.
Last year Clark-Pleasant, Franklin and Greenwood schools all sponsored a summer feeding program and served a total of more than 30,000 meals. On average, Clark-Pleasant fed more than 200 students each day at each of its five sites, and this summer that number has climbed to between
350 and 400 students on some days, food service director Kim Combs said.
The number of students at Franklin’s four sites has also increased this summer, but officials do not yet have the number of visits per day, food service director Jill Overton said.
One reason Clark-Pleasant’s numbers are up is because Combs has worked to get the word out about the program.
Schools’ summer feeding programs are funded based on the number of students who receive meals each day, and Clark-Pleasant served enough lunches last year to have the money to advertise this year’s program. Fliers were sent home with students a week before the end of school, and Combs also rented signs to post outside the sites where food is served for two weeks.
“It’s just hard to know what media people are going to see. It’s on the Web page, but not everybody does that,” Combs said.
“You’ve just got to find new, creative ways to get the information out there.”
The signs were what got Robinson’s attention. By going to the school for meals, she is saving money and has more time to spend with her kids.
Robinson spends part of her summer mornings reviewing summer school lessons with her three children. Last summer, she didn’t feel she had time to work on lessons with her children, then ages 1, 4 and 6, when she was planning for and preparing three meals a day for five people.
With lunches now coming from Pleasant Crossing five days a week, she has time to review the summer school lessons in the morning and take the kids to the park in the afternoon.
“Feeding your kids lunch seven days a week can be hectic. And expensive,” Robinson said.
And with the money the family is saving, she is hopeful the family can afford a trip to an amusement park.
School districts need between 25 and 50 students to arrive for lunch each day to afford the cost of food, equipment and employees for the summer programs. Clark-Pleasant has an average of between 70 and 80 students arriving at its five sites, while Franklin has between 95 and 225 at its four sites.
More children come to Northwood Elementary School in Franklin, where students ages 6 through 12 are attending a summer activities program, and others are studying to improve their scores on the IREAD-3 exam. Those students also are staying for meals, Combs and Overton said.
Combs used money for advertising that wasn’t needed to buy food or pay employees. She and Overton also purchased kitchen equipment and insulated carriers to make sure food was getting to all of the sites at the proper temperature.
Combs is also hoping to spend more money advertising so that more families will know about the program next summer.
“I feel like it’s been a success, and I’d like to continue this. We’ve had enough kids that show we’re being a benefit to the community,” Combs said.