St. Clair ShoresJune 15, 2012
Free lunch programs available for local children
By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer
As the effects of the Great Recession continue to ripple through the area, local schools are finding there are more and more children in need of food during the school year.
“We know kids are hungry, and we hear it all the time — kids telling us this is going to be my last meal till Monday,” said Tina Morris, food service director for Lake Shore Public Schools. “You wouldn’t expect it because it’s the Shores … there’s the huge houses, (but) it’s right in our backyard.”
And this year, the need has gotten so great that two local school districts have qualified to serve free lunches throughout the summer to any child who wants it.
South Lake Schools will offer a Summer Food Service Program for children 18 years old and younger or those up to age 26 who are enrolled in an educational program for the mentally or physically disabled recognized by the state or a local public educational agency. Lunch will be served at South Lake High School, 21900 E. Nine Mile Road, from noon to 1 p.m. Monday-Thursday June 25-Aug. 2.
Lake Shore Public School’s program began June 11 and runs through Aug. 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday at Masonic Heights Elementary School, 22100 Masonic Blvd. The same age requirements for a free lunch apply at that school, and adults can purchase a meal there for $3.15.
In South Lake Schools, 56 percent of the district receives a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year.
“Once you’ve reached 50 percent or more of eligibility, you become eligible to run that program,” said Cathy Clarke, food service manager for South Lake Schools District.
This is the first year for both programs.
“It’s one meal that they’re having the opportunity to get that they might not otherwise get,” Clarke said.
South Lake is hosting its program at the high school because it will already be open for summer school, and it has a kitchen available for cooking the lunches.
“They found, usually, where there is a gathering of kids, you’re going to have more success,” she said.
Districts are reimbursed for the program by the federal government; it isn’t supposed to cost the schools money, Morris said.
“It’s just like how it is during a 10-month school year,” she said. “We’re just trying to keep basic healthy lunches for the kids, get them in. They have access, if they want, to play on the playground.”
Those looking for a free lunch for their child do not have to sign up, register or live in either of the districts. Anyone can come, regardless of income level.
Morris said Lake Shore was able to offer the program because Masonic Heights had more than 50 percent of its students qualify during the school year. Throughout the district, about 44 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
North Lake High School also offers the program, but that location is not open to the public.
“We’re just hoping that the kids take advantage of us being there,” Morris said of Masonic Heights Elementary. “Every year, we have more and more free and reduced applications, and we’re processing more and more. It’s just getting worse and worse; it’s kind of scary.
“Our whole purpose is just to serve them, so it’s a great thing to do for our community.”
Morris said parents can find more Summer Food Service Program locations across Michigan by calling 211 or texting FoodMi to 877-877.
For more information about the Summer Food Service Program at Masonic Heights Elementary School, call (586) 285-8925. For more information about the Summer Food Service Program at South Lake High School, call (586) 435-1435.
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