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Shawnee Mission School District's summer lunch program feeds kids for free

SMSD Summer Lunch Bunch Program
Posted at 5:01 PM, Jun 04, 2024

SHAWNEE, Kan. — In its latest report, Feeding America found 1 in 5 children in the U.S. may be food insecure.

That means they might not know where their next meal is coming from.

School lunch may be the only healthy meal a food insecure child gets during the day, with some families not being able to afford much.

One Kansas City-based summer meal program helps alleviate this burden.

Known as the Summer Lunch Bunch program, the Shawnee Mission School District serves a free, hot meal to any child ages 1 to 18, no matter where they live or go to school.

IN ENGLISH | Shawnee Mission menu for free meals for the summer
En ESPAÑOL| Menú de las escuelas de Shawnee Mission para comidas gratis para el verano

Meals are served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each week through July 26 at five of its schools:

  • Comanche Elementary
  • Rosehill Elementary
  • Shawanoe Elementary
  • Westridge Middle School
  • Shawnee Mission North High School

It’s a program families look forward to.
“Having a little bit of rhythm and routine in our summer, it helps that we can come to school and have lunch,” said Kristen Loney, whose children attend the district.

Loney and her three boys are regulars at the program, usually coming a few days a week.

“I would think just on any given day, maybe 500 children we’re feeding?” Jill Willett, the district’s food service nutritionist, said. “It’s just awesome to know that we’re providing something to families that is nutritious, to any family, especially those that may not have the means to get meals during the summer.”

Willett said these meals are fully funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Parents like Loney are grateful for how this program helps them save money.

“I’ve got three growing boys, so I generally end up at the grocery store twice a week, so this is just a way to alleviate a little bit of that,” she said. “We’re really thankful that it helps us save a little bit of money in the summertime when some of our other expenses go up."

It's also a way for children and parents to connect and spend time with one another, all over a hot meal.

“I get to talk to my friends for a little bit while my kids are in one place,” Loney said. “I think it’s fun for my son to get to show his friends his school.”

The USDA has a list of locations for summer meal programs across Kansas and across the country.