June 2, 2009 --
Hundreds of children from low income families in Northeast Arkansas receive their meals in their schools for free or at a reduced rate. At the Jackson County School District, it's 68% of their students. But now that school is out, parents have to plan those meals into their budget and for many that's not possible.
Jackson Co. School District is just one of the many schools that is taking part in a program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture called the "Summer Food Service Program". This provides nutritious meals and snacks to children during the summer months, the same high-quality meals they would receive during school.
Superintendent Chester Shannon says this is the third year they've offered the service to the community.
"When we started, not many used it because they didn't know about it, or they didn't think they were eligible to eat. But now word has spread and they are definitely taking advantage of it."
Shannon says anyone 18 or younger is allowed to eat free, but they also provide meals for anyone older at a reduced cost.
"You see kids that when they come to school, it's to eat. They don't throw a roll away. So for them this may be the only meals they get. Other kids, they may have something to eat, but it may not be hot. A lot of our kids have parent's that work nights or both parents are working."
Food Director, Alisia Roberts says she noticed the need as the economy worsened and some parents were laid off from work.
"It's hard enough losing your job and thinking about your budget. And then having children at home for the summer to provide meals for that the school normally provides all year long, you know that can really take a toll on your finances."
Breakfast will be served from 7:30 am to 8:00 am, lunch will be served from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm Monday - Friday in the Tuckerman Cafeteria.
Several other schools have confirmed their participation.
Jonesboro Schools - Pre-K Center, MacArthur Jr. High, Annie Camp Jr. High
Paragould Schools - Woodrow Wilson, Baldwin, and Oak Grove Elementary Schools
Cherokee Elementary at Highland
Nettleton Intermediate Center - 3801 Vera St. (June 8 - Aug. 7) closed July 3. Breakfast from 8-8:30 am, with lunch from 11 - 12:30 pm.
United Christian Fellowship Outreach - 528 W. Monroe Ave., Marshall and Melrose (Jonesboro Urban Renewal and Housing Authority location) 601 Marshall St. , Cayman Villa (Jonesboro Urban Renewal and Housing Authority location) 601 Alpine St. , Allen Park - 3609 Race St. -Program June 1 - Aug. 14. Meals Monday - Friday 11 am - noon.
Deliverance Family Worship Center - 403 Scott St. - June 1 - June 31, Lunch 11:30 am - 1 pm, Monday - Friday.
Westside Elementary - 1630 Arkansas 91 West
Upward Bound at Arkansas State University
CityYouth Ministries - 118 Burke Ave.