School district finds a way to feed children for free all summer

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EL RENO, Okla. – Summer started early this year for cash-strapped school districts around Oklahoma.

For many administrators, changing the school calendar was a tough decision, because many of their students depend on free and reduced breakfast and lunch during the school year.

El Reno Public School district plans to feed their students free breakfast and lunch all summer long.

“The whole thing is excellent, and it’s free,” said freshman Malik Rochdi.

“It’s helping them get them some more food, so they don’t get hungry over the summer,” said sixth grader Braden Edwards.

For the first time this summer, the district plans to take their summer nutrition program on the road.

They’ve re-painted and re-purposed a district van to bring sack lunches to four different mobile feeding locations, Monday through Thursday starting May 31st, ending July 28th.

Here’s the summer schedule for any child who wants free breakfast or lunch:

Breakfast

  • Etta Dale Junior High Cafeteria (8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.)

Lunch

  • Adams Park (10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.)
  • Etta Dale Junior High Cafeteria (11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.)
  • Frank Knight Park (11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.)
  • Wesley United Methodist Church (11:30 a.m. to noon)
  • Hillcrest Elementary (noon to 12:30 p.m.)
  • Legion Park (12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.)

“Because of the downturn in the economy, our kids potentially won’t have any food in their homes, so this fills the void that happens between the time school is out and starts back up,” said Jeff Edwards, the Director of Nutrition for the district. “We’re going to do what’s best for kids regardless of what our budget is and what the economy is.”

Considering many districts around the state are laying off staff members and eliminating valuable programs for students, it is surprising El Reno can pay to feed students all summer.

El Reno Public Schools is a relatively poor district with 80 percent of the student population eligible for free and reduced lunch,

District administrators tell NewsChannel 4 they usually operate on a pretty lean budget and that has been a blessing through recent tough economic times.

Many districts have been forced to cancel summer enrichment programs for students – El Reno did not.

Because El Reno kept their summer school program, they were eligible for an FDA grant to pay for the summer meals.

“Not just El Reno public school kids but any kids 18 and under are welcome to come to the food truck for a free truck,” said the district’s media coordinator, Brooke Robertson. “There are hungry kids, and we thought we’ve got to do something.”

Robertson has no idea how many children they’ll feed this summer.

Everyone is welcome.

The free lunch program will close July 4th to July 7th.

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