District 51 will offer free meals this summer at two more sites

School District 51 this summer is expanding a program that offers free breakfast and lunch to all children in the community four days a week.

District officials will bump up the number of schools at which meals are served from five to seven. The program will be offered to anyone under 18 — not just District 51 students — Monday through Thursday from June 8 through July 16.

Dan Sharp, director of nutrition services, said the district made the change in response to the poor economy and an expected increase in the number of students enrolled in summer school, which the district refers to as its extended learning program.

“We think it’s a great community benefit to those families that are struggling financially out there,” Sharp said.

The free meal program, which has been around for nearly 20 years, has grown significantly in the past couple years. The number of lunches served soared from roughly 5,700 in 2006 to more than 21,000 in 2008. An additional 8,900 breakfasts were served last year, the first year they were offered.

The increases coincide with greater numbers of kids attending summer school.

Enrollment rose from 2,000 in 2007 to 2,800 last year, and roughly 3,000 could participate this year, District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said.

District 51 actually makes money from the summer free-meal program. Sharp said the district pays $3 per meal and is reimbursed $3.15 per meal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The extra money goes back into the district’s nutrition services program.

Adults who want to eat with the kids can purchase breakfast and lunch for $1.75 and $3.25, respectively.


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