This summer, the Atwater Elementary School District will ensure that anybody under the age of 18 will have at least one nutritional and well-balanced meal four days a week.
The Summer Food Service Program begins June 13 and runs through July 14. It consists of booths set up at parks around Atwater providing a free lunch Mondays through Thursdays for children and teens. Adults will have the option to buy lunch for $3.50.
“They don’t ask for any type of verification or certification that you live in the community,” said Sandra Sanchez, food service consultant for Sodexo.
Lunches will be served in Osborn Park from 11-11:40 a.m. and in Heller Park from 11:15 a.m. to 12 p.m. Ralston Park will have lunch service from 11:50 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
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Lisa Ludwig, food service supervisor for Atwater Elementary School District, said the district joined with the Merced County Department of Public Health to also promote activities for kids every Wednesday starting June 15 at Heller Park from 10:45 a.m to 12:15 p.m.
Ludwig said it is a way for kids to get active, move around and have something to do at the park during summer vacation while being provided with fruit, vegetables, milk and an entree.
“If kids aren’t a part of summer school, what else is there for them to be doing?” Ludwig asked.
Sanchez said the population of people on free or reduced lunch in Atwater is “extremely high” and many students depend on the three full meals and one snack that is provided each weekday during school.
“If we can give them at least one meal, that is awesome,” Sanchez said.
Ludwig and Sanchez both said there isn’t a way for the school to know kids are getting well-balanced and nutritional meals daily during the summer and are happy the program continues to be in Atwater.
“Each year our participation keeps going up and up,” Ludwig said. “It’s a positive thing we do here in Atwater.”