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Free lunches available to children, teens

Annual Summer Food Service Program taking place at Carver Center, Garden Square

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Summer Food Program

CHOW — (Left to right) Zahir Williams, Timya Kendrick, Jasmine Barton, and Azraelle Jarvis have lunch at Carver Community Center last Thursday.

Children filled Carver Community Center last week for lunch during the first week of the annual Summer Food Service Program, put on by Kokomo School Corp.

The program, which kicked off June 10 and runs through July 12, is open to any school-aged child or teen in Howard County, regardless of which school they attend. Meals are served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Carver Community Center and Garden Square Apartments.

“This really benefits the kids,” said Jack Lazar, director of food services for Kokomo School Corp. “Without this program, this might be the only meal they have for the day.”

Last Thursday, the children and teens were enjoying ham and cheese sandwiches, bananas, carrots, and milk.

Participant Timya Kendrick said she likes being able to go to Carver Community Center for lunch. In doing so, she’s already made new friends, as she was joined by Jasmine Barton, Azraelle Jarvis, and Zahir Williams.

“I’m having so much fun, and I meet new friends,” said Kendrick.

The program has been ongoing since 2003. Last year, 5,750 meals were served. Fifty to 60 meals were served daily, on average, at Carver Community Center, while another 50 were served on average at Garden Square Apartments.

Other menu items include chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs with coney sauce, sub sandwiches, cheeseburgers, vegetables, and milk. The lunches are prepared in the Kokomo School Corporation kitchens and then transported to the sites, where each site has volunteers who have been trained to serve the food to the children.

The federally-funded program is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Indiana Department of Education. According to Kokomo School Corp. officials, more than 14 million children nationally depend on free or reduced-price lunches during the school year and that good nutrition in the summer is critical to a child’s healthy development.

“The impact it has for these kids is unbelievable. They really appreciate it. Just take a look at them, the smiles on their faces. It gives them time not just to eat but time to socialize with other kids that they might not have that opportunity to do throughout the summer,” said Lazar.

Tammy Carpenter, cafeteria manager, echoed Lazar.

“I think this has been amazing for these children to have some place to go,” she said. “They get something to eat every day that is nutritious.”

No meals will be served Thursday, July 4. Carver Community Center is located at 1030 N. Purdum, and Garden Square Apartments is located at 800 E. Hoffer St.