School cafeterias open during summer to serve free meals

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Many parents don't have to worry about their children going hungry while they're at home this summer. Once again, several school districts across South Mississippi are opening their cafeterias and serving up free meals.

The classrooms are closed now, but the cafeteria at Pass Christian Elementary and Middle School is still buzzing with activity. The first day of the school's Summer Feeding Program drew dozens of children from the Pass Christian Boys and Girls Club and the USM Child Development Center. On the menu: pizza, fries, fresh fruits and veggies.

"It's delicious," said 11-year-old Jamie Fredericks.

"Because I can't buy food every day, so having free food when I come here, that's good too," said 15-year-old TeAisha Henderson.

Four-year-old Madison Jacobs got her first taste of the cafeteria experience. Her mom is a teacher in the Pass and wanted Madison to learn about the lunch line.

"I was coming to work in my classroom and I thought about the free lunch program. I was saying what a great way to transition into kindergarten, being able to be responsible for getting her own tray, her own milk," said Madison's mom Candace Jacobs.

When asked how the food tasted, Madison replied, "Good."

The apple was her favorite.

The Pass Christian School District has been serving up healthy meals every summer since Hurricane Katrina. Children, ages 18 and under, can line up for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.

"It's absolutely free. You don't have fill out paperwork. You don't have to do anything. Just walk in the door and we'll feed you," said Cafeteria Manager Jessica Willis.

In the coming weeks, summer camp children and incoming kindergartners will join the lunch crowd. The program will feed up to 400 children a day through July 25.

"It's increased. We've had chances to outreach and to get more people involved and believe it or not, most people are not aware of this," said Willis. "We give them a chance to have a hot meal three or four times a week, whereas sometimes they wouldn't have that. We get to provide this service to the community and we love that."

As a teacher, Jacobs understands the need for the program.

"You do see those kids that are less fortunate. You think about it sometimes over the summer. Will they have breakfast? Will they have lunch? This provides an opportunity for some of those kids to be able to get a healthy, nutritious meal during the summer while school is out, so I'm very grateful for that," said Jacobs.

DeLisle Elementary will serve free meals from July 21 to July 25.

The Biloxi School District also started its summer food program on Monday. The program in the Harrison County School District will begin next Monday, June 9. You can check with your child's school to find out if it offers a Summer Feeding Program.

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