NEW?ULM - Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?
According to Jackie LeMay, director of food service for District 88, that widely-held sentiment can and will be proven false this summer.
For the first time in the district's history, there will be a summer lunch program offering food to children age 18 and under with no fee, no registration and no questions asked. This move toward more nutrition offerings for children echoes the actions of area districts including St. James, Mankato, Springfield and St. Peter, which all offer summer lunches.
The program will offer an entree, two fruits or vegetables and a carton of skim, skim chocolate or 1 percent milk to all kids, regardless of income, every weekday from 11:30 a.m. until noon.
"The time is short, but it's going to be a very quick meal," LeMay said. The food will be served in the Jefferson Elementary cafeteria. The meals are not just for kids residing within District 88, either; any child 18 and under is eligible to receive free food. Adults can eat, too, for a fee of $3.60.
As lenient as this program may seem, there are a couple of rules. As appetizing as the chicken fajitas or beefy nachos might look, parents are not allowed to eat off their children's trays without paying themselves. Taking food out of the cafeteria is also not allowed.
"People might be talking about why we should have summer food when we're trying to get a referendum passed because they probably think we are paying for it," LeMay said.
The lunches, however, are not being funded by the district. Actually, the Summer Food Service Program is funded fully by the United States Department of Agriculture. It originated as part of a larger program to combat the effects of poverty and poor nutrition found in low-income youth.
LeMay said that it is difficult to estimate how many children will take advantage of the free meals, but she is hoping to serve around 200 per day. During the summer of 2013, the federally-funded program served over 2.4 million meals at over 630 sites in the state of Minnesota alone.
The Summer Food Service Program will run every weekday from 11:30-noon from June 9 to Aug. 22. It will be closed July 3 and 4.
For more information, contact Jackie LeMay at 507-359-8427 or follow the Food Services' Twitter account, @NewUlmEaglesEat.