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Cooks Angela Hartman and Nyoka King are throwing away about 10 meals a day — meals that could have gone to student-aged residents for free.
That’s down from about 40 meals a day that were being discarded just as the two-week Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. fall break got started Oct. 7. Even so, the school district wants to get the word out that hot meals are ready and waiting the rest of the week.
The school district has been preparing cafeteria breakfast and lunches as part of its Fall Feeding Program, said Nancy Millspaugh, the district’s food service director.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program is intended to make sure students continue to get healthy meals while they are away from school. Adults also can enjoy a wallet-friendly meal that costs $1.85 for breakfast and $3 for lunch.
The meals are available only at Schmitt Elementary School, Smith Elementary School and Foundation for Youth. Meals follow USDA guidelines for health and are much like what students would have when regular school is in session.
Millspaugh said the school system previously offered federally funded meals to the public only during the summer, which was long enough to qualify because it extended 10 days or longer.
However, the school system began a balanced school calendar last school year, which shortens summer vacations in exchange for longer fall and spring breaks.
That qualified spring and fall breaks for the first time and led to the program being offered starting last school year.
Children enrolled in the school district’s before- and after-school programs eat for free under the USDA grant during the fall. Children in before- and after-school day care get cafeteria lunches, for example, while children at Columbus Youth Camp get brown bag lunches on the go.
The free or low-cost meals haven’t caught on with the rest of the public, however.
Few if anyone from outside the fall programs showed up last week at Schmitt and the Foundation for Youth, according to workers at the feeding locations.
Hartman, a cafeteria worker from Central Middle School, and King, a cafeteria worker from Columbus North High School, have been serving meals at the Foundation for Youth.
Hartman said Oct. 7 was a trial day to see how many meals they might need to prepare for the rest of the week. She said three families came in that day, while on other days no one came into the Foundation for Youth at all.
Millspaugh said a lot more people participate in the summer program, perhaps because it has been going on for about 10 years and the public has grown aware of it.
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