SHAWNEE, Kan. — Shay Biron has brought her three and one-year-old granddaughters here, to Broken Arrow Elementary, for its summer lunch bunch program.
“This is on the way home, so, two days a week, we plan to have a nice lunch,” Biron said. “Eating in a school cafeteria is what big kids do so this is a chance to be with the big kids.”
The Shawnee Mission School District launched its annual program this week.
“It provides a free hot meal Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.,” Shawnee Mission School District Nutritionist Jill Funk said.
It’s a free hot meal, not just for students, but for anyone between the ages of one and 18.
“It is completely free, funded by USDA,” Funk said.
Money received from the USDA covers the cost of the employees and their benefits and their food.
Funk said roughly one-third of children within the district are on free and reduced lunch.
“They have a gap in time from when school lets out until it starts back up again in August and this provides a meal for them when otherwise they might not have it,” Funk said.
Over the years, the program has grown.
It started seven years ago, with four sites, serving roughly 11,800 children.
Over the past two years, the list has grown to 10 locations, which served roughly 25,000 children.
Families said it’s an opportunity for students and families to come together and enjoy a nutritious lunch.
“It gets my kids out of the house. He is a fruitarian,” Jessica Tobin said about her son. “He only eats fruit and so this is great for him because it helps him expand his palette just a little bit.”
“All children eat food,” Biron said. “We're all here together, we're all a part of this community and there's no reason for anyone not to take advantage of the services that we have here.”
For a list of summer lunch options in Kansas, click here.
On the Missouri side, the Grandview school district also has started its summer lunch program, free to anyone under 18 years old.
The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services has a list of options for summer food service programs near you.