Free Summer Lunch Programs See Increased Participation

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FULTON - Fulton Schools and the YMCA of Callaway County are offering free summer meals yet again. This is the third year they are teaming up to do this program. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services sponsors the Summer Food Service Program to provide lunch for anyone 18 years and under or disabled.

The FPS Food Services Director said she has seen participation increase this year. She said it could have to do with their new location at Fulton High School.

"I think for the YMCA the numbers have increased and overall our numbers have increased that may be because we have a new site this year but were pulling in a lot of kids from the pool here at the high school, which is wonderful, and from the sports camps. We have a lot of extras that are walking in at Bush school too and a few at the middle school, so I think the numbers are up this year," Fletcher said.

They continue to keep up with the increased participation.

"We always try to plan for the numbers we are going to have and to make sure we have enough food for everybody," Fletcher said.

Food is served as four different locations: Fulton High School, Fulton Middle School, Bush School, and the YMCA. Breakfast is also served at all sites besides the YMCA.

"All of our sites are open sites. They can just drop in," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said this year they have made one change involving types of food being served.

The children at the YMCA now walk to Fulton High School to get hot lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"So that gives them an opportunity to have a hot meal rather than all sack lunches, which I think I think is a plus. The kids are enjoying it, they even have asked for menus so they know what they will be eating," Fletcher said.

Talisha Washington, the sports director of the YMCA said she has seen an increase of about ten more children participating this year. She said the number of kids participating at the YMCA is at about 85 this summer.

She said this gives the children more variety in their lunches.

"Last years and the years before we had sack lunches, by adding this hot lunch it gives kids something to be excited about. Some kids like tater tots rather than chips so it is definitely a benefit," Washington said.

Many of the children asked said they enjoy the food served and typically eat most of what they are given.

Washington's daughter attends the camps and free food program. She said her favorite part is going over to the high school for lunch and then going swimming afterwards.

Fletcher said programs like this are so important.

"We are just really delighted to be able to have this program for our students during the summer, so that those that we worry about that may not have that opportunity to have food at home can come in and have a good meal," Fletcher said.

She hopes to expand the program to reach kids outside of the city limits.

Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Lunch is served 11:30 to 12:30 p.m at the YMCA and 12 to 1 p.m. at Bush and Middle Schools.

The summer feeding program will go until the end of June for the schools and beginning of August for the YMCA.