District serves thousands through free meal program

Thanks to a federally-subsidized lunch program run out of select Hays CISD campuses, any child under the age of 18 is eligible for free breakfast and lunch all summer long.

Last week marked the first day of the district’s free summer breakfast and lunch program. At six schools, anyone under the age of 18 can receive a free breakfast and lunch throughout the summer, regardless if they are enrolled in the district as a student or are attending summer school.

According to district spokesman Tim Savoy, more than 6,000 meals were served during the first four days. Typically, participation will pick up as the summer moves along, he said. By the end of the program, he expects the district will be serving 2,000 meals a day.

“The reason something like this is important is because our families depend on the nutrition program at school for meals,” Savoy said. “Just because school is out, that need does not end.”

The lunch service is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture program that expects to pay for more than 200 million meals to children nationwide this summer, according to the USDA. This summer, meals will be provided at six Hays CISD schools: Camino Real Elementary, Fuentes Elementary, Science Hall Elementary, Wallace Middle School, Simon Middle School and Lehman High School.

Many of the meals at those schools are provided to students taking summer classes, Savoy said, but the program is also intended to ensure children from low-income families have access to healthy, affordable meals even after the last school bell rings for summer break.

“For children who are what we consider food insecure, much of their nutrition comes from free or reduced lunch programs during the school year,” said Michael Thibodeaux, the head of the district’s Child Nutrition department. “The goal is to offer them nutritious meals throughout the summer. Less nutritious food may be more available or cheaper, but we want kids to be able to have access to good meals, even if parents can’t afford it.”

Just like during the school year, campus cafeterias have a set menu that is available for viewing online and on the district’s social media accounts. This summer, schools will be serving up meals like chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, spaghetti and chicken sandwiches with sides of fruit and hot vegetables every day. All children under 18 eat free, but adults can purchase meals for themselves for $3.50 each.

“It’s such an important program and we’re looking at ways to expand it so all kids who qualify can access it,” Thibodeaux said. “We want to get the word out that this is available for the children in the community.”

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