Thousands of students eat for free this summer in Jackson. It's an unfortunate sign of the tough economic times and it's evident in the increased need for the summer lunch program, a national program designed to give children the nutritious meals they might not get when school's out.
It kicked off in Jackson. Organizers say the number of children in need is on the rise. Milk, hot dogs, fries and a fruit cup, that's what's on the menu. Each day is different, but the goal is always the same.
Chrissy Wilson: "We provide a balanced meal."
For free. The summer lunch program's funded by the US Department of Agriculture, but it's not open to just any school district. To qualify, at least 50 percent of the students in a district must be eligible for the free and reduced school meals, a program that helps low-income students during the year. In Jackson, that number is even higher- 70 percent.
Chrissy Wilson: "There's kids that, you know, will beg for second meals 'cause they don't, they obviously are hungry."
Coordinators say the need just keeps going up. When the summer program started more than twenty years ago they served a couple hundred meals every day, now it's a different story. Jackson public schools says they'll serve 1,700 meals a day for the next nine weeks. That's more than 76,000 meals before school's back in session.
Chrissy Wilson: "We have some children that come every day that you know come from lower income households. You have some people that you know, probably could provide the meal, but it's a nice meal, it's hot outside, the parent doesn't have to cook it."
Jacob Batterson, 10 years old: "I think it's good because, well, I have a lot of good cooks in my life. I like pretty much any food."
A full meal for students and a big break for parents. Coordinators say you don't have to live in Jackson to bring your kids out for a free meal.
Posted: Jun 21, 2010 3:52 PM CDT by WLNS.com