The Pine River-Backus School has begun its annual Seamless Summer Program to feed not only summer school kids, but any kids age 18 and younger.
The program began Aug. 5 in conjunction with summer school. Jilline Blanchard, PR-B food service director, said the program has been held during summer school for the last three years because of numbers.
“This (students in the cafeteria) is just summer school,” Blanchard said. “I haven’t noticed anybody that’s not in summer school. To make it feasible, the numbers have to be higher.”
Blanchard said they sometimes get a small number of kids attending the free breakfast and lunch program who are not attending summer school. If more students from outside of summer school attended the program, it could be offered throughout the entire summer.
“It’s always a thought, because it’s an option you can do, but the numbers aren’t ever really high enough,” Blanchard said.
Other schools have successful summer long free meal programs, such as in Pillager. The program is state funded and reimbursed in the same way as meals during the school year. Due to the number of children who go hungry in the area surrounding Pine River, food shelf and family center staff have been focusing on the program as a way to possibly help feed more area children and reduce the cost of food to families.
“My main goal, I would like to feed children who are hungry,” Blanchard said. “It’s available. It’s free. I would like to see anybody in town that needs a meal to come and get a good meal, but that’s the main goal — to hit who I can and get the word out more.”
Blanchard said those who have attended the program include children from nearby homes and apartment complexes, day cares and children with parents who are already at the school for other reasons. This suggests that distance and transportation might be deterring families who might otherwise take advantage of free breakfasts and lunches at the school.
Last year the program attracted around 70 children for breakfast and 85 children for lunch on a daily basis. This year’s first day showed similar numbers. The menu is organized similar to a school year menu, but with small differences.
“I have a few different things, because of smaller numbers I bring in nicer, fresh produce, and there are a few upgrades to things like having a fresh salsa,” Blanchard said.
Meals are nutritionally balanced. Children are required to take a vegetable or fruit every day and calories are strictly monitored.
In addition, parents who want to join their children at breakfast or lunch are rare, but welcome. Anyone older than 18 pays $3.35.
Currently the Seamless Summer program mostly serves elementary age children attending summer school, though the program is dedicated to serving anyone under the age of 18, whether they are attending summer school, living in low-income families or are just nearby looking for something to eat with friends.
Breakfast is served from 8-9 a.m. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meals are completely free and require no sign up. Those interested in a meal can come to the Pine River-Backus School cafeteria with their appetite ready. For more information, call 218-587-2865.