Program aims to keep kids fed in summer
While students are preparing for summer break, school districts officials are preparing to kick off an annual program to ensure students continue to get fed.
The Putnam County School District Food Service Department is administering the Summer Meals Program, which provides free nutritious meals to students when school is not in session. There were 32,000 meals served in Putnam last summer.
“This is vital to the nutrition of our future,” said Nikki Hawthorne, Food Service Department director. “We know kids personally that attend schools in our county that don’t have a lot of food over the summer months.”
The program, which will serve breakfast and/or lunch at various locations throughout the county, begins Monday. The last day some of the program’s locations will serve food is July 26.
Starting Monday, Miller Middle School in Crescent City and Jenkins Middle School in Palatka will open their kitchens to anyone 18 and under for free breakfast and lunch. Mobile food sites will begin June 11 as buses make rounds through Interlachen and Crescent City.
“We have over 35 sites located throughout Putnam County,” Superintendent Rick Surrency said. “Without this program, many of our families would be left without a way to provide adequate nutrition for their children.”
Hawthorne said Summer Meals is the department’s favorite program to administer. Not only do students and their families benefit greatly from it, but so do the Food Service employees and volunteers.
“When you ride our buses and you go down and you see where these kids live and the excitement on their face when they run to the bus to get their meals, you can’t put words to it,” she said.
It takes significant manpower to host the program each summer, and Hawthorne said the community is always willing to support and volunteer for the cause. Volunteers include school resource officers and people like Wendy Mason, the department’s summer coordinator.
“Wendy works really hard with the logistics of the program, and the program wouldn’t be as successful without her,” Hawthorne said. “It really is a team effort. … It takes community members. It takes our office. It takes school district support. It takes everybody.”
For a list of food sites, residents can enter their address in the “find a site” section of SummerBreakSpot.org. For information, call 329-0524.