Summer feeding programs are up and running all along the Coast. For the first time ever DeLisle Elementary School is taking part in the federally funded program. With many families in the Pass Christian area still struggling to rebuild after Katrina, program leaders say the summer feeding program could not have come at a more perfect time.
It's lunch time and hundreds of children are ready to eat. On today's menu: cheeseburgers, french fries, fruit and a pint of milk to wash it all down. A government approved nutritious meal.
"It tastes really good," second grader Derrian Bradley said.
His classmate, Juris Stutts, agreed.
"It's really, really good."
The hot meals are free to anyone in the Pass Christian area 18 or under. Program leaders say establishing it here could not have come at a better time.
"Most of the families lost everything here in Pass Christian. We had a tremendous loss. FEMA trailers and trying to prepare meals, from experience, is very difficult. Us providing this meal on campus is a plus for us and a plus for the children and the community," said Saundra Esabelle, Food Service Director for the Pass Christian School District.
She says sending children here to eat lunch will relieve storm weary parents of the financial burden of buying as much food. Money saved could be used to make home repairs.
"It helps the parents not worry about feeding the children in the summer. It helps them not even worry about maybe they're getting a cold meal, just a cold sandwich at home. Here, they're going to get a hot meal and that's very important."
And she says parents should take advantage of this opportunity while they can.
"Because we're having a staffing problem, our program is only going to last 20 days. It's because the ladies have lost everything and they need to try to rebuild their lives before they come back to work in August."
But for now, Esabelle says knowing they've made a difference to so many families makes the work worthwhile.
A total of 367 children took part in the free meal program Tuesday. Leaders expect that number to grow as more people become aware of the program.