Metro schools, programs offering free lunch for kids during summer break

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Summer break can be the hungriest time of the year for kids, but school districts in the metro are fighting hunger with summer meal programs.

Many of those programs around the metro kicked off Monday.

Monday was also the first day of summer school at Briarcliff Elementary in the North Kansas City School District. It's one of 17 schools in the district that offers free breakfast and lunch to all children 18 and younger.

"We actually do summer meal program Monday through Thursday each week for four weeks during June," said Jenna Knuth, director of food and nutrition services for NKC School District.

Knuth said about half the kids in the district rely on free or reduced lunch.

"They get that sustenance from us during the normal school year, but when schools out, they may not be able to get that food without continuing to eat with us throughout the summer," she said.

Knuth tells parents about a resource for free lunches run by No Kid Hungry.

"You can get a list of all the summer sites, not just ours with our district, but all seamless summer sites everywhere that's close to you," she said.

To find that information, text "FOOD" to 877-877. All you have to do is reply to the campaign's text with your city or zip code.

On the Kansas side, the Shawnee Mission School district is serving up free lunches five days a week through the end of July.

"We've gone for the last two summers," GInny Crum said.

Crum brought three of her grandchildren to Merriam Park Elementary for lunch. It's part of their routine before the pool on hot days.

Shawnee Mission Food Services Nutritionist Jill Funk started an incentive to get more kids involved in the summer meal programs offered at 10 of its schools.

"Something new that we're offering in our district this year is we're offering a raffle program," Funk said. "So the more times the kiddos eat, the more chances they have to win."

The meals are funded from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, based on the number of students who receive free and reduced lunch.

Whether people find out about them through a text service or directly from a school district, educators just want to see more kids take advantage of them.

"If they're hungry they don't learn as well and if they're well fed, especially nutritious food, they learn better," Knuth said. "Food and learning go hand in hand."

Raytown School District has summer school from June 4-29, during which breakfast and lunch are free, according to a district spokesperson.

Click the links for more details on some of the free lunch programs around the metro: Hickman MillsOlathe LibraryShawnee Mission and Lee's Summit.

Check out the following tweets from FOX4's Alana Laflore for more details about other free lunch programs: