The Helena School District is making it easier for area children to eat healthy lunches this summer.
The Kids Feed ’n’ Fun program provides a free lunch to anyone under 18 at Memorial Park and Bryant Elementary from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from now until Aug. 20.
More than 130 children showed up to eat lunch at Memorial Park on Monday, which is about 20 more than last year’s average.
Delaney Knudson, 10, walked through the buffet-style lunch on Tuesday and first used the motion-sensored hand sanitizer. She opened up a small brown paper lunch sack, and as she walked along the table she picked up a salami sandwich, an orange and a carton of milk.
She was happy to take a break from listening to a story, playing musical chairs and making monster masks to enjoy her meal. The only item she didn’t eat from her free lunch was a little bag of carrots.
“I just wasn’t in the mood for carrots,” Knudson said.
The carrots didn’t end up in the garbage, though. There are no seconds for lunch, but a “share table” provides a place to collect foods children dislike and others are welcome to help themselves to the discarded, unopened items.
In previous years free lunches in summer months were provided by Rocky Mountain Development Council and Helena Food Share, but this year they’ve passed the summer-lunch torch to the district.
During the school year, Sodexho, the food service provider for the district, feeds about 6,000 children every day between breakfast, lunch and a la carte.
It’s because of that, says Sodexho manager Robert Worthy, his crew is equipped to continue that service during summer months.
“Lunch is really nice for the kids … we don’t have to worry about everyone having a lunch because often they forget — and these lunches are healthy, too,” said Tashina Waltz, recreation leader with Kay’s Kids at Memorial Park.
Jannice Odermann oversees the Kay’s Kids summer recreation program at five sites, one of which is Memorial Park.
“The food enhances my program in that parents don’t have to come up with the money (to buy lunch) and we don’t have to figure out storing them,” Odermann said. “I’m very impressed with the lunches, which always have fruit, a vegetable and milk — I appreciate the quality, and it’s healthy.”
This week Sodexho is sticking to cold sandwiches until the program settles in, but starting next week children will have a hot-lunch option. Monday’s lunch menu at Memorial is a chicken sandwich followed by pepperoni pizza subs on Tuesday. A complete lunch menu can be found at www.helena.k12.mt.us.
For more information about the food program contact Worthy at 461-7939.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or email@example.com