Iowa schools start serving free breakfast, lunch for the summer

Federally funded meals available to all 18 and under

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A long line of children looped through Madison Elementary’s cafeteria Monday morning.

Even though the school year ended weeks ago in Cedar Rapids, they loaded cartons of chocolate milk, graham crackers and Lucky Charms cereal onto blue lunch trays.

As part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, Madison Elementary is one of about 530 schools, churches and other community centers in Iowa that will serve free breakfast and lunch throughout the summer.

“It’s open to all children 18 and under,” said Staci Hupp, the spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education, which administers the program. “It’s really designed to take the place of the free and reduced price meals program offered during the school year — and more than 200,000 Iowa students qualify for that.”

Last summer, the program provided 1.2 million meals, Hupp said. A full list of meal sites can be found at fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

In Cedar Rapids, sites include Cedar Rapids schools that are hosting Kids on Course University this summer, an academic program focused on improving students’ reading skills.

Kids on Course University provided food last year, director Amy Evans said, but did so without the support of the federal grant.

“We’re super excited to have the support serving,” she said Monday, as students sat down in the cafeteria for breakfast. “You can’t learn if you’re hungry and thinking about something else. If we provide for their basic needs, it makes learning a lost easier to do.”

For students not in the Kids on Course University program, which invites students based on their reading skill level, the Boys and Girls Club is providing all-day programming at the same schools.

Children in that program — which costs $12 for the summer and is accepting new enrollments until Friday — also are fed by the Summer Food Service Program.

And, the school district’s Food and Nutrition Department Manager Suzy Ketelsen said, children not enrolled in either program still are welcome for breakfast and lunch.

“Although the district will serve over 1,200 children a day in their work with (Kids on Course) and Boys and Girls Club, expanding meal service to siblings and neighborhood children means more students will have access to healthy meals,” Ketelsen said in an email.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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