Summer can bite into students’ nutrition

Stephanie Preciado, 3, grabs a bag of salad during lunch time at Calaveras School Monday morning. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

The little girl dressed in a colorful poncho played on the playground at Calaveras School while her parents talked with other families about ways to save money when visiting Gilroy Gardens, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Happy Hollow Park and Zoo.
“We like to come here everyday,” said Rolan Resendiz, as he watched his daughter play. “It’s like a little family outing.”
Resendiz accompanied his daughter to pick up a free meal, socialize with other students her age and play on the playground July 9 at the Hollister School District’s Calaveras School off 1151 Buena Vista Road in Hollister.
Participation in free school meal programs during the summer months is less than during the school year but more than it was last year, said Ann Pennington, director of student nutrition. The school district serves 2,800 to 3,000 paid, reduced- price and free meals each day during the school year, Pennington said. During the summer, the district serves about 800 meals a day, she said.
But participation in the school free meal program in June more than doubled from what it was last year. This summer, the Hollister School District served 5,492 lunches in June, compared to only 2,698 lunches during the same month last year, Pennington wrote in an email to the Free Lance.
“Personally, I think the difference is the district separated maintenance from student nutrition,” she said.
Pennington joined the district last July, when the district’s director of maintenance and nutrition position was split into two jobs. John Teliha, the former district director of nutrition, maintenance, operations and warehouse services, was made the district’s director of facilities.
District-wide, a total of 352,888 breakfasts and 556,107 lunches were served in the most recent school year, Pennington wrote in an email to the Free Lance. Using numbers provided by the district’s director of student nutrition, that was 88,854 more breakfasts and 72,312 more lunches than the prior school year.
The district’s Calaveras School is part of the National School Lunch Program, which includes a “Seamless Summer Food Option,” Pennington explained. The “Seamless Summer Option” allows all children to eat free meals during student vacations of 10 or more days in communities where at least 50 percent of youth are eligible for free or reduced- price meals, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.
Sites in the county not qualifying for the NSLP,program can apply to participate in the “Summer Food Service Program,” which provides federal funding to serve free meals any time students have 15 or more consecutive days of vacation in communities where at least 50 percent of youth are eligible for free or reduced reduced-price meals, according to the same website.
“It’s hard to find a way to get kids to come back to the schools so we’re trying to find a way to get food to the kids,” Pennington said.
Some larger districts have bought food trucks to deliver meals to students, she said.
“You talk to the kids and they’re like, ‘We’ll be there. We’ll be there.’ And then they don’t come,” Pennington said. “But I’m sure around 3 o’clock they’re wishing they’d come.”
Students visiting the school sites during the summer get a breakfast that includes grain, a fruit and optional milk, she said. The lunch adds a vegetable, a protein and milk.
“I think there are many kids—honestly—in our district that miss a meal because they don’t come here,” Pennington said, adding that if the youth got a meal it was a snack and wasn’t nutritionally well rounded.
For more information about the sites offering free meals during June and July, go to the California Department of Education’s website: or call 1-800-952-5609 and select option 3.

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