Free lunches to be offered to kids over summer

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COLUMBIA – Monday is the beginning of this year’s annual Lunch in the Park program.

The Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Voluntary Action Center have partnered together to carry out the program.

Volunteers will provide the lunches in Douglass Park for low-income children under the age of 18 every weekday until August 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., excluding July 4.

Nick Foster, Executive Director of the VAC, said these free lunches are important because they are the only opportunity for many kids to get nutritious lunches during the summer.

“A lot of the students that go to school everyday during the school year qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches," he said. "During the summer, those are not available to most of those children, so this really fills a gap. It fills an important place for those students to be able to eat lunch during the day everyday."

The program is sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture and is an extension of the public school free and reduced lunch program.

Columbia Public Schools prepares the meals and VAC volunteers serve them to the children.

There will also be educational programs provided by groups including Girl Scouts, The Central Humane Society, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and more.

Foster said finding volunteers for this cause isn’t much of a challenge.

“We really are kind of almost overrun with volunteers for this experience, so we’ll have three or four volunteers everyday, most of them are already set up. We only have a couple of days where we’re still in need of anyone.” he said.

Although many spots are filled, Foster encourages anyone interested in volunteering to contact the Voluntary Action Center.