Four Westside sites in D-11’s free summer food program
Three Westside elementaries - Bristol, Midland and West - will not be back this year as sites for District 11's Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides free weekday breakfasts and/or lunches to children.
Returning Westside sites are:
SFSP is offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which pays for the food, and School District 11, which handles staff and logistics.
According to Janine Russell, District 11's SFSP director, the amount of food is not the problem. The main issues leading to the site eliminations were “greatly reduced” summer funding this year from D-11; and low turnouts last year at those sites, she explained.
Moreover, the district could not expect turnouts to improve because last year D-11 had offered summer school or other programs to attract people to most locations, but funding cuts put a stop to that, Russell said.
“What we've seen is that when there isn't a summer program at a school, children don't come even to get a free meal,” she elaborated.
She needs to make sure the selected sites are well-attended because low-usage sites still require the same amount of staff. “We're usually looking for 40 or more kids,” she said, noting that the eliminated elementaries typically drew less than half that number.
For the most part, the district picks SFSP sites based on their proximity to neighborhoods with higher numbers of Title 1 students (those who qualify for free or reduced lunches during the school year because of their family's income).
“We know there's some needy kids out there and we want to feed them,” Russell said.
However, no proof of need is required for SFSP. The meals are free to anyone (including babies) under the age of 18.
Adults can eat at a cost of $3. “We have to ask for that [adults paying for their meals] because we don't have reimbursement from USDA to cover adult meals,” Russell said.
Here is more detail on each of the Westside sites:
A-1 Mobile Home Village - Times are 10:45-11:15 a.m. A van drops off meals to a centralized location at the trailer park. Only 10 to 15 meals are usually taken, but the smaller number is OK because drop-off situations can be economical, staff-wise, according to Russell.
Early Colleges - Times are 7:30 to 8 a.m. and noon to 12:30 p.m. The June 24-July 12 time frame was set to match its summer school dates.
Jackson - Times are 8:30 to 9 a.m. and 11:30 to noon. The school has no summer programs, but it didn't have any last year, either. “For whatever reason, those community kids come in,” Russell said.
Westside Community Center - Times are 8:45 to 9:15 a.m. and noon to 12:30 p.m. This is SFSP's third year at the site, and last year had higher attendance than the year before. The center is a city-owned, privately run facility, and the district has no other programs there. However, the center's own summer activities/ classes offer an attraction; plus, District 11 is giving away donated books to children who come in to eat, Russell said.
Westside Pioneer article