A school program serving meals in the summer is coming closer to where families live in an attempt to feed more children.
Franklin and Clark-Pleasant schools will continue to offer free meals to children this summer, and have added a total of eight sites in neighborhoods, such as apartment complexes. Greenwood will again offer free summer meals at Northeast Elementary School.
Last year, Northwood Elementary School was the only site in Franklin where kids could show up for a free meal without registering in advance. The new locations this year at Traditions Apartments, Franklin Cove Apartments and Countryview Mobile Home Community were added to serve those students that can’t easily walk to Northwood.
Franklin picked the neighborhoods based on areas that have a high percentage of children that are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and would have too far or too dangerous of a walk to Northwood Elementary School, Franklin food service director Jill Overton said.
For example, about 82 students living in Traditions Apartments regularly ride the bus to school. The apartment complex, located on the east side of Franklin, is more than 2 miles away from Northwood and students would have to travel along State Road 44 to get there.
“The east side of Franklin has sort of been underserved,” Overton said. “We have a couple of areas in need because those children can’t walk to Northwood for lunch, so we’re going to take those meals to them.”
Fifty percent of a school’s student body has to be eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch in order for a school to offer free lunches in the summer, under federal regulations. Creekside Elementary School does not meet that requirement, but more than 50 percent of students living in the Countryview Mobile Home Community, who attend Creekside, do and that’s why that site was selected, Overton said.
The site at Northwood Elementary averaged about 100 students a day last summer, and Overton expects that number to remain consistent. The new neighborhood sites should draw children that did not get free meals last summer because they couldn’t get to Northwood. The school district is hoping for about 50 kids a day at the site at Traditions Apartments, and about 30 a day at the other neighborhood sites, Overton said.
School districts typically need to have an average of 25 kids eating at a site each day in order cover their expenses. But one site can have a lower number, if another site has a higher average. For example, Clark-Pleasant is only expecting about 25 students at some of the smaller neighborhoods, such as Greenwood Estates, but about 65 kids are expected at Trotters Pointe, Clark-Pleasant food services director Kim Combs said.
Clark-Pleasant added sites this year at Greenwood Estates, Trotters Pointe, Beacon Pointe and Village Crossing Apartments. The school district selected those sites due to the large number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, along with concerns about getting them to a site at a school. For example, children in the Greenwood Estates mobile home community would have to walk along U.S. 31 to leave their neighborhood for a free meal. Now, those children can have a meal without risking their safety, Combs said.
Greenwood schools will continue to offer free meals to kids this summer at Northeast Elementary School, but that program may be in jeopardy unless more students show up on a routine basis, food services director Cheryl Hargis said. The school district is offering free summer meals for the third year, and about 30 kids visited Isom Elementary School each day to get a free lunch the first year in 2012. The district moved the summer lunch program to Northeast Elementary School, with hopes of attracting about 100 kids each day.
“We still averaged only about 30 kids,” Hargis said.
Greenwood selected Northeast Elementary School because about 74 percent of the students there are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. They expected more families would use the program. The school district has put information on bulletin boards inside the schools, at local churches, and other community locations with the goal of drawing at least 50 students a day, Hargis said.
“We’re in the best location we possibly can be,” Hargis said. “So if we don’t have a big increase we may have to stop the program.”
No decision would be made until next school year, Hargis said.