SECOND HELPING: Local schools will continue providing free breakfast and lunch next school year

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Friday, May 7, is designated as School Lunch Hero Day, but the heroes in Hancock County are serving up much more than lunch.

Since the COVID pandemic set in last year, abruptly canceling the final nine weeks of school, local food service providers stepped up by providing meals for students even when school wasn’t in session.

Rather than donning capes, the school lunch heroes slipped on aprons and plastic gloves and passed out to-go meals in drive-through lines last spring and summer, and provided both free breakfast and lunch for students throughout the past school year.

Thanks to ongoing state and federal funding, Hancock County school districts will continue to provide free meals for students throughout the summer and the 2021-22 school year.

Experts say it’s a huge win for children and families, especially those who struggle with putting enough food on the table.

“On this School Lunch Hero Day and every day, thank you to all the school nutrition staff across Indiana. You help guarantee kids are healthy and ready to learn, and provide a constant in these challenging times,” said Tarrah Westercamp, the Indiana school program manager for No Kid Hungry, a national program devoted to feeding children.

As a dietitian specializing in school nutrition, the Greenwood woman praises all the food pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations that help keep families fed, especially during times of crisis.

“So many have stepped up to the plate to make sure our kids are fed and have access to these meals. People are working tirelessly to work toward that throughout the state, and we value them,” she said.

Amanda Stout, director of food services for Greenfield-Central schools, said waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have enabled schools across the country to continue offering free lunches next school year, a program that was started a year ago during the early months of the pandemic.

The Greenfield-Central food service will not only be offering free lunches throughout the school year, but will be serving free breakfasts and lunches for children at a number of sites this summer, including four of the Greenfield schools; the Prairie Meadows apartments; and the concession stand at the Riley Park Pool.

Summer program members at the Greenfield Parks Kids Kamp and Boys & Girls Clubs of Hancock County will also receive meals. Some sites will serve hot meals, while others will serve cereal, sandwiches or other foods.

All students at Greenfield-Central schools will be able to take advantage of free lunches throughout the upcoming school year, while the summer food giveaways are open to all children 18 and younger.

Stout is thrilled to be able to keep providing meals for students, as some families continue to struggle financially.

“Families may not be experiencing the same type of food insecurity they were this time last year, but want to make sure they continue to have access to our programs,” said Stout, who is short-staffed and now hiring for the next school year.

Mt. Vernon schools also plans to offer free meals to students throughout the upcoming school year and is finalizing details for free meal pick-ups to be offered this summer.

The district is currently offering free meals to all children in the district, as well as a meal pick-up option for those students who are learning full-time virtually.

“These programs are important because it allows those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic an opportunity to feed their children for free. It allows us to provide nutritious and well-balanced meals to those who may not receive meals otherwise,” said Doris Johnson, Mt. Vernon’s food services director.

“The need that exists in our community is evident with the increasing demand for our local food pantries. We strive to help fulfill that need, ensuring that kids within our community obtain the nutritious meals they need to succeed in education and growth,” she said.

Eastern Hancock schools will not be providing meals this summer, but the district does plan to offer a free breakfast and lunch for each student again next school year, as it has this year.

In the Southern Hancock schools, students 18 and younger may pick up summer meals on weekdays, either daily or weekly, from June 7-25 and July 5-23. Both breakfast and lunch will be included.

Chantel Fowler, CEO at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hancock County, is looking forward to doing her part making sure kids are fed when the club’s summer program starts June 7.

The club is partnering with Greenfield-Central schools to provide breakfast and lunch to local children 18 and under this summer. Unlike last year, when meals were distributed in a drive-through format, kids will have the option of dining on site or outside on the club’s grounds.

“We tried to keep our numbers low last year (due to COVID)… but this year we are back and we are not turning people away,” Fowler said.

“We feel (food scarcity) is a very big need in our community, and we want to do as much as we can to help,” she said.

The club has even served dinner throughout this past school year to club members.

“A lot of families head straight to sports activities when they leave here and might not get home until 7:30 or 8 at night, so we took it upon ourselves to start providing dinner, and it’s been a success,” Fowler said.

“Plus, kids like to eat. They get excited about food. They come in wanting to know what’s for dinner today, so it’s nice to be able to provide that for them,” she said.

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Thanks to a federal grant through the Summer Food Service Program, the Greenfield-Central School Corporation will be providing free meals for children 18 and under this summer.

Following is a list of locations where meals will be available, weekdays only, from June 1 through July 23. No meals will be provided on July 5.

Riley Pool concession stand, 300 Apple St.

Lunch: 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Breakfast for the following day will also be provided.

Greenfield Intermediate School, 204 W. Park Ave.

Door No. 12 – North side of building

Lunch: 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Breakfast for the following day will also be provided.

Greenfield-Central High School, 810 N. Broadway St.

Door No. 14 – West side of the building

Breakfast: 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Lunch: Noon p.m. to 12:30 p.m.

J.B. Stephens Elementary School, 1331 North Blue Road

West side of the building in the bus parking lot

Lunch: 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Breakfast for the following day will also be provided.

Greenfield-Central Junior High School, 1440 North Franklin St.

West side of the building in the bus parking lot

Lunch: 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Breakfast for the following day will also be provided.

Prairie Meadows apartments, 2915 Sweet Grass Lane

In front of building No. 2

Lunch: 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Breakfast for the following day will also be provided.

Southern Hancock schools will also be providing free meals for children this summer.

Children and 18 and younger can sign up for three different options:

1. Daily pickup from 12:30 to 1 p.m., including lunch choice and breakfast for the following day.

2. A five-day meal pack pickup, including breakfast and lunch for five days, between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Tuesdays.

3. Daily grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for students enrolled in any of the Summer Enrichment Camps at New Palestine Intermediate School.

Families are asked to pre-order meals at the district’s website, newpal.k12.in.us, and check back for additional information the week of May 31.

To find free meals in your neighborhood, text “Food” to 877-877 or call 1-866-HUNGRY.

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