Archive for Thursday, April 28, 2011

USD 204: There is such thing as a free lunch

April 28, 2011

With some help from members of the community, students in the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville USD 204 can get free lunches on weekdays this summer.

In a program that has only been enacted for summer school in the past, free lunches will be offered for those ages 18 and under from June 6 to July 9 at Edwardsville and Bonner Springs elementary schools. Three days a week, enrichment activities also will be offered in Edwardsville. The summer lunch program is all thanks in large part to three community members.

Kris Bush of Bush Farm said she helped get the program under way with Kim Dominic, minister at the Edwardsville United Methodist Church, and Kristin Moulin, counselor at Edwardsville Elementary. Given the large number of students on free and reduced lunches in the district, all three women had concerns that the students were getting proper nutrition when school wasn’t in session.

“Three of us were all kind of thinking about this at the same time,” Bush said, explaining that she had first started thinking about it two years ago, when her daughter told her about a summer lunch program in Nebraska.

Then while volunteering at this year’s Vaughn-Trent Christmas basket assembly, Bush spoke with Dominic.

“I said, ‘I really want to see this happen,’ and she said, ‘I’ve been thinking about that, too,’” Bush said.

Since both have close ties to Edwardsville, their original idea was to get the program going in that city with the hopes of spreading it to Bonner Springs. They contacted Moulin for help getting the word out to students, and in the early stages, they hoped to organize the entire program three days a week themselves: getting volunteers to bring in lunches and then have a reading and recreational enrichment time at Dominic’s church and the Edwardsville Community Center.

“I was hoping if it was successful, someone would get on the bandwagon in Bonner and say let’s do this in Bonner,” Bush said.

But they ran into a snag concerning state certification for the kitchens used for serving food. They were also concerned about getting the food donated and organized consistently with only volunteers.

“Realistically, it probably would’ve been more difficult than we had ever dreamed,” Bush said. “We were getting good response from the community, but to have that many meals brought in by volunteers would have been a challenge.”

So Moulin went to the school district and learned that a free summer lunch program was available through the state for districts that have a large percentage of students on free and reduced lunches.

Moulin said after discussing it with the principals and superintendent, she learned the district had used the program in the past when summer school was offered and was willing to allow use of the school cafeterias and cafeteria staff to offer the program again this summer, though there won’t be summer school classes.

Bush and Dominic will still be on hand to help organize volunteers to supervise the children and the enrichment programs for elementary-aged children at the Edwardsville location on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Bush said they were working to bring in firefighters, magicians, performers from Bonner Springs-based theater The Roving Imp, and story times with the Friends of the Bonner Springs City Library. The library also is providing more than 200 children’s books that children can check out following lunch.

“That’s great because these are kids that probably don’t get to go to the library during the summer,” Bush said.

Parents or guardians over 18 may attend and eat lunch with the children for $3.35 per adult.

Students must register for the program by May 1, and notices have been sent out through the schools. Bush said while response has been high for the Bonner Springs Elementary location, they are still hoping for more participants to take part at the Edwardsville Elementary location.

For more information, contact either Bonner Springs Elementary, 441-1777, or Edwardsville Elementary, 422-4036.

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