Hollister School District to offer free summer lunches to children

Angelina Lopez takes a drink of milk during lunch at R.O Hardin school. Four Hollister School District campuses will offer free lunch to any student 18 years or younger this summer, even if they are not enrolled in summer school.

The Hollister School District will again offer free lunch to any child 18 years and younger at four locations for the summer.

The children do not have to be enrolled in an HSD school or be part of a summer school program to receive the free meals.

Janet Felice, the manager of food and warehouse services for the district, said that last year’s free summer program gave out more than 16,000 meals during the roughly three week sessions.

“Last year we serve more than 16,000 students over June, July and a couple days in August,” Felice said. “It really depends on the number of days.”

Last year the school district held summer school at more schools, though this year the summer school sessions will be kept on just two campuses.

Felice decided to add two additional sites for the lunch program. The schools include Sunnyslope Elementary School, which houses the YMCA summer day camp program, and R.O. Hardin Elementary School, where a vast majority of students enrolled during the school year receive free lunch.

The total 16,000 meals served the year before included breakfast meals at some sites, Felice said.

This year, because attendance was low for the earlier service, she decided to stick with lunch times. At the summer school sites, they do have to schedule the break before the end of the school day, but at the two sites without summer school Felice set them up to be close to the lunch hour, of 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“The numbers may even go up,” Felice said. “We have less sites open, but we have more concentration.”

She said she would be including the summer schedule on the June lunch menu that goes home to parents in hopes that they will remember it. Felice said she is still trying to increase the number of children not enrolled in summer school programs to come out for lunch.

The way the program works is that the kitchen lunch staff members tally the number of meals the school receives a reimbursement for the meals through the United States Department of Agriculture’s school lunch program.

One of the caveats of the free summer lunch program is that the students have to eat the lunches on site and cannot take food out of the lunch area.

“That is the only real rule,” Felice said. “And we have to be a real stickler about that because we had an audit and it was an issue. It is mostly for food safety and to ensure the food is intended for the child.”

At the lunch sites, adults can purchase a meal for $3.

Felice said she was trying to get fliers out to summer programs that might want to bring students to the lunches and she said she was checking with the city’s Parks and Recreation department to see if they might be able to partner.

Schools offering the summer lunch program had the option of using new federally-mandated changes during the summer or to wait until fall. Felice said Hollister schools will deal with the menu change when school starts in the fall.

One of the biggest changes is that the students will be required to take a half-cup serving of fruits or vegetables.

She said they can decline two of the items offered for each meal, but they will have to take one serving of produce.

Felice is advertising for bids for vendors than can provide fruits and vegetables, but she was still working out the details of how the new program will work.

She said she would be attending a meeting later in May about implementing the changes.

“I really want to try sliced and diced portions,” she said. “Maybe mix colors – carrots and bell peppers – to make it more appealing.”

Free lunch program

The Hollister School District is offering free lunches to any child 18 years or younger from June 13 to July 11 at the following schools:

R.O. Hardin Elementary School

881 Line St.

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Sunnyslope Elementary School

1475 Memorial Drive

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Calaveras School

1151 Buena Vista Road

10:45 to 11:45 a.m.

The lunches will also be available July 9 through Aug. 3 at Ladd Lane Elementary School, 161 Ladd Lane, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

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