Free summer meals for KC-area children begins June 1

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Every child in the metro between the ages of one and 18-years-old can get a free breakfast, lunch and dinner every day during the work week beginning Mon. June 1 through Fri. July 24, 2015.

It’s a part of the federally-funded, state administered Summer Food Service Program, which started in 1968. Free meals are offered to children living in low-income areas throughout the country, so they can eat when otherwise they might go hungry.

“We’re able to offer a well-balanced lunch with protein and grains, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables,” said Nancy Coughenour, Food Services Manager with the Shawnee Mission School District. “Many children don’t have the means or wherewithal to have a nutritious lunch during the summertime. Parents might be working or there might be socio-economical needs that they can’t fulfill, so we’re able to fulfill that need.”

While meant to feed children from low-income families, the program is open to ALL children. Parents are not allowed to eat any of the food served. Families don’t have to go to a food service location nearest their home. They can take their children to any Summer Food Service Program location in any state.

“If you’re travelling from New York City to San Francisco and you want to Google us, you could stop all the way across the country and stop at summer lunch sites and have the kids have lunch,” said Coughenour.

Coughenour adds that kids who eat at one of the seven Shawnee Mission locations will have access to a salad bar with fresh fruit and vegetables.

“We encourage them to take what they want but eat what they take. So if they like apple slices, they can have as many apple slices as they’d like,” Coughenour said. “We want them to get full every time they come for lunch.”

Shawnee Mission has offered the program for the past four years, and attendance has grown from 11,000 children served the first year to 25,000 kids in 2014. The district is reimbursed by the federal government for every meal they serve. While Shawnee Mission only offers lunch, other locations also offer breakfast and supper.

There are more than 150 food service locations scattered throughout the metro. To find one nearest to you, go to these websites:

In Kansas: https://svvappcnw.ksde.org/SFSPLocationsASP/SFSP/SFSP_Menus/SFSP_Locations.asp

In Missouri: http://health.mo.gov/living/wellness/nutrition/foodprograms/sfsp/