School cafeterias open up to serve hungry children during the su - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

School cafeterias open up to serve hungry children during the summer

Children in Long Beach enjoying the summer feeding program. (Photo source: WLOX News) Children in Long Beach enjoying the summer feeding program. (Photo source: WLOX News)
LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) -

Many school cafeterias opened their doors Monday morning and welcomed hundreds of hungry children from the community. Monday was the official start of the Summer Feeding Program for most school districts. According to the USDA, one in five children lack access to adequate amounts of nutritious food at home. That's why schools are trying to fill that gap, especially during the summer break.

The cafeteria at Quarles Elementary in Long Beach came back to life with hundreds of happy and hungry children. Little ones from local summer camps, clubs, and the community filled the tables on the opening day of the school's Summer Feeding Program.

Sheryl Abrew brought her three children and their friends. Abrew pointed to two children and said, "This one is amazing that he's eating, so I love it. And this one, I like the variety and the nutrition aspect of it is great."

The hot, healthy meals are served at no cost to children ages 18 and under. That's one less worry for many parents and grandparents.

"It helps to not have to put out the cost for lunch every day. I mean, I'm paying for the adults to eat, but at least they're free," said Cheryl Gardner of Long Beach.

The menu changes every day, so some items may appeal to picky eaters.

"It helps to not have the same thing for lunch. We get to come here, they can have hamburgers, pizza, chicken nuggets," said Gardner.

Monday's menu offered cheeseburger, baked beans, chocolate pudding and fruit cups.

"It's great tasting," said 12-year-old Phoenix Gardner.

"I like the burgers. I just don't like the cheese. I scraped it off," said one boy.

"Oh, it tastes delicious. I like how they cooked it. It's smoked. I like it," said ten-year-old Davien Lagarde.

Quarles Elementary is one of 30-sites across South Mississippi that are providing meals this summer.

"We have a high free and reduced, about 50-percent, so those children need this program," said Long Beach School District Nutrition Administrator Deedee Hurt.

For the first time, lunch is also being served at Long Beach High.

"It's just an exceptional program and we're so happy that we can host it," said Hurt.

"I think it's awesome! There are so many children who don't get to eat during the summer months. I think it's very important to feed children who don't get to eat on a regular basis," said Shelby McNair of Long Beach.

"I love it. I think it's great. My son has a peanut allergy and they don't use any peanut products, so I think that's an amazing aspect of it too," said Abrew.

At least ten school districts across South Mississippi are providing the Summer Feeding Program until the end of July. Some locations serve breakfast as well. Several Head Start and Boys and Girls Clubs are also offering free meals during the week. Parents should check with their closest school district for the summer feeding schedules.

Click here to view the Long Beach feeding schedule.

Click here to view the Pascagoula-Gautier School District feeding schedule.

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