PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Hamburger steak and rice drew a big lunch crowd to Pass Christian Elementary-Middle School Monday.
"We got some peaches down there," the cafeteria lady told the children waiting in line.
This summer, the school is serving up hundreds of hot meals to hungry children in Pass Christian and surrounding cities. The menu varies from day to day.
"We serve sandwiches some days, pizza some days. We serve jambalaya," said Saundra Isabelle, Food Service Director for Pass Christian Schools. "We're not sticking with the fast food, chicken nugget type meals anymore. We're trying to introduce them to healthier meals."
The school district started offering the summer feeding program right after Hurricane Katrina. But the need over the years has changed.
"The economy right now is making this very important to our families in the community," said Isabelle. "We have seen the numbers grow. Two years ago, we were right at 150-189. This year alone, we're right at 230."
While most children are members of the local Boys and Girls Club, others are from the community.
"During the summer, when there's nothing to do, we just stop by to waste some time. But the food's pretty good," said 14 year old Naajee DeLavallade.
Thirteen year old Lionel Fields came to eat for the first time. When asked about the taste of the food, he replied: "It's good."
Any child, 18 and under, can line up for free breakfast and lunch. Adults can also purchase a plate.
"I definitely think it's a great thing," said Lauren Lewis of Delisle, who has three sons in the feeding program. "I think that it's a benefit for the community and helps out parents that maybe want to send their child to try new foods."
While the children get a tasty meal, their parents enjoy some peace of mind. The meals are served Monday through Friday. Breakfast runs from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Lunch is from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The program in Pass Christian ends July 1.