KINGSFORD - The food service workers for the Breitung Township Schools are ecstatic about being able to serve children all summer, as well as during the school year.
This year, the school district met the requirements to be able to host a summer food program extending the popular program and continuing to feed children.
"I love it. And the parents are so thankful for it during the summer," said Vicki Waterman, food service director at Breitung Township Schools.
A large group of children and some adults come to the Woodland Elementary School cafeteria for lunch and breakfast every day. The popular food service program offered during the school year has been extended to the summer months through Aug. 17. The district is now able to host of summer program and provide free meals for all area children, age 18 and younger.
Breitung Township Schools Photo
In order to host the program, the district had to qualify with 50 percent of its students during the school year getting free or reduced meals.
"We were getting close and when I called the state this year, they told me there was a new way to qualify. They plugged in our zip code along with the 2010 census and we came up eligible this summer," Waterman said.
Breitung Township Schools Supt. Craig Allen is equally excited about the program.
"It's great that we are able to extend this excellent program this summer to the whole community," he said. "It's great for working parents and ensures the kids get a quality breakfast and lunch throughout the summer."
In addition to serving meals at both the Woodland Elementary School cafeteria and the high school/middle school complex, Waterman is also able to deliver meals to
any address in the district that serves children.
Included in her daily deliveries are camps, daycare centers and Vacation Bible schools. She calls them in the morning to get a count for that day, and she and her staff deliver the meals to the different sites.
"We've talked about wanting to do this for years and the staff is on board. They're happy to be doing this and believe in the importance of being able to serve the kids and get good nutrition to them over the summer," Waterman said.
Both Waterman and Allen stressed that the meals are available free to all children in the community, from age 18 and younger. If parents or grandparents want to come and eat with the children, the cost is $2.75 for adults.
"And what she's offering for both breakfast and lunch goes well above the criteria - standards set by the state. She always has several choices for the kids to pick from," Allen said.
Waterman said she's got great support from the food service staff, administration, and coaches running the camps.
"The coaches and instructors for the programs promote the summer food program to the students coming. They can walk out of the gyms and come and have lunch. We have something set up at the other building, too. And I appreciate the support when I see the principals in the cafeteria every lunch time," she said.
Kingsford Middle School Principal Dave Holmes said that he's seen quite a few of the students getting breakfast when they are over at his building for a camp. "Many don't take the time for breakfast before coming and this helps them stay energized even during the warmer weather," he said.
Waterman also sets up a five gallon jug of ice water for the students to encourage them to drink water.
"The fresh fruit is going well too and the kids seem to love it. Sometimes they have it at home and don't eat it if it isn't cut up and ready for them. We make sure that it's prepared and ready for them to grab every day," she said.
Between 250-300 meals are usually served each day during lunch time, she added.
And during the first week of the program, they served a total of 2,400 meals during the breakfast and lunch times.
As they do with the school year program, Waterman and her staff are busy baking fresh bread and rolls every day. "We are lucky to have the facility we have where we can do this and be able to pull off serving as many people as we do each day," she said.
She added that they changed their white bread and buns to a healthier alternative using wheat flour. "The kids accepted it and other changes we've made to make things healthier for them," she said.
The summer food program is patterned after the high school/middle school meals served during the school year, she added. They have the menus for the week available on the school website at www.kingsford.org.
For example, one lunch menu lists a hot ham and cheese sandwich, grilled cheese, chicken noodle soup, salad bar, baked beans, watermelon and milk to choose from. The next day, choices are chicken fingers, salad bar, sweet potatoes, pineapple tidbits, dinner roll and milk.
Entrees such as hot and cold breakfast, a complete lunch and full salad bar are daily options along with daily specials on the menu, and hamburgers, cheeseburgers, sub sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are served every day.
Breitung Township Schools food service department will continue serving breakfast and lunch each day through Aug. 17.
Even with the work going on in the parking lots of the school buildings this summer, Waterman said they've got a good turnout. She's helped out as best she can by putting up flags and markers indicating where people should go when coming to the schools to get to the cafeterias.
And as things change with the projects, she moves these markers around so people can find where they're at.
Waterman said that to host a summer food program requires a lot of paperwork to meet requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We have to check to make sure each of the kids takes three out of the five offerings we have every day," she said. "There are a lot of rules involved and I follow them. But all I really just want to do is be able to feed the kids every day."
She added that children from all area school districts and guest are encouraged to join their friends for free breakfast and lunch at Breitung Township Schools.
Breakfast is available from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
"It's been going really good since we started two weeks ago. The people on staff are working and I like to be busy. I just love seeing people come in and eating what we put out for meals. Knowing that they are getting nutritious meals during the day is the best reward for me," Waterman said.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.