Free lunches extended beyond school year for Armstrong children
Free lunches are again being offered to children in Armstrong County during the summer when they are not in school.
“Hunger doesn't take a summer vacation,” said LuAnn Fee, director of Armstrong School District food services. “We want to make sure we keep feeding our kids a good lunch each day if they want it.”
The district and Armstrong County Community Action offer the lunches to children younger than 18 at nine sites, Monday through Friday, until Aug. 15. There is no income requirement.
Community Action local projects director Jeff Boarts said the program can be a boost for families who rely on free or reduced-cost lunches during the school year.
“Buying food for that one extra meal per day can become a large expense,” Boarts said. “We don't want to see kids go hungry because their families can't afford it.”
The program, which is funded largely through the Department of Agriculture, served 640 children at seven Community Action sites last summer, and 350 at Shannock Valley and Elderton elementary schools.
Fee expects to see just as many children take advantage of the program this year.
“We see a lot of the same people coming in every single day,” Fee said. “For this area, the program has become a service that helps a lot of families who might be struggling financially.”
Of the county's five school districts, Armstrong is the largest and has the highest number of students — 2,461, or about half the student body — qualifying for free and reduced lunches during the school year. About 35 percent of the 11,302 students in Armstrong County qualify for free lunches, while 7 percent qualify for reduced lunches, according to state Education Department statistics.
The district in the summer program prepares hot meals at the two elementary schools. Cold lunches, which include sandwiches, fruit, yogurt, vegetables and milk, are served at the other sites.
Community Action Executive Director Ken Hileman said that last year, the program cost his organization about $20,500. The state reimbursed $14,500, while the remaining $6,000 was paid for through donations. The school district's $7,500 contribution to the program is fully reimbursed by the state.
“It's an expensive program, but we decided we're going to run it whether or not we end up losing money because it's such a benefit to the area,” Hileman said.
Fee concurs, and said the district would likely continue offering the lunches even without reimbursement from the state.
“Everyone here supports this program,” she said. “It's just the right thing to do.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.