For the more than a quarter of Cherokee County School District's 42,000 student population that qualifies for free and reduced lunch, school breaks can be a time when kids and their families struggle to eat.
But the school district, as well as community partners, are working to fill that gap in the summer, and this year is rolling out a new initiative to get food to hungry kids.
The district is continuing participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Seamless Summer Option, which offers free breakfast and lunch to children ages 0-18. No identification is required of the youth or their parents, kids simply receive a meal and eat it on the premises to comply with USDA regulations.
The summer feeding program distributes meals in Cherokee County schools, focusing on areas identified as having higher need, based on data from censuses and free and reduced lunches in surrounding schools. Because the summer meals are offered as an extension of national school breakfast and lunch programs, they are paid for with money from USDA at no cost to the school district. For last summer, the district reports serving 55,000 breakfasts and lunches in June and July.
New this year is a food delivery bus, refurbished from an older school bus to get meals to children at more locations. The youth will have the option of eating on the bus or at tables and chairs set up around the bus in locations other than CCSD school campuses. School Nutrition Department Director Tina Farmer said the district has saved a second bus that will be ready next summer.
"We’ll be kind of working out the kinks as we go,but we’re hoping we can impact as many students as we can at those locations," she said. "We’re really excited about the bus."
The program runs June 5 to July 19, Monday through Friday, with no meal service July 1-5. Lunch items this summer will be ones familiar to CCSD students, such as hamburgers, deli sub sandwiches, chicken sandwiches and Smuckers peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Farmer said. Like school cafeteria lunches, summer lunches will include a fruit or vegetable and milk or juice. For more information about the Seamless Summer Option, visit www.cherokeek12.net.
The district also works with community partners, such as MUST Ministries, to coordinate how to get food to children. MUST provides a sack lunch with a sandwich and a juice box or bottled water with two snacks to residential areas identified by school counselors. To help MUST purchase sandwiches and for more information, visit mustministries.org.