Fresno's Free Summer Lunch Program
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thousands of free lunches are available for the asking this summer ... but Fresno County families don't seem to be asking. It's estimated only twenty percent of children from lower income families in Fresno City and County are taking advantage of the free lunch program.
It's high noon at the boys and girls club near Belmont and First in Southeast Fresno. But before the fun begins the kids need to fuel up. On the menu ... a hardboiled egg ... string cheese ... raisins ... crackers ... a peach ... and a carton of non-fat chocolate milk.
Eleven year old Chantell Batton said, "We get all kinds of food ... and healthy food. I like healthy food cuz it makes us strong and I like milk cuz it makes our bones strong."
The Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission serves lunch and sometimes breakfast and snacks at 80 different sites throughout the city and county during the summer. Last year only about 19-thousand children participated in the summer program ... but during the school year over 125-thousand students ate free lunches.
Randy Moens of Fresno County EOC said, "There's a big need for meals during the school year there's a big need for meals ... a lot of these families are relying on school breakfasts, school lunch and so in the summertime there's a gap where they don't have services ... so we fill in that gap."
Moens says they're hoping more families will show up later this week as the word gets out. Many parents like Kathleen Hernandez fed their children before showing up at this summer reading enrichment program in East Central Fresno.
Kathleen Hernandez said, "Yes it does help ... it helps a lot. But today you didn't know ... no, I didn't know so I fed them before (laughs)."
Families who want to participate in the free lunch program can just show up ... there's no paperwork to fill out ... no proof of income required
Randy Moens said, "There's homes ... there's kids who just aren't either being fed correctly or they don't have access to good wholesome food ... there's a lot of different factors involved."
Each site orders extra meals each day to accommodate extra mouths to feed ... and if you ask the kids who participate ... there's an added benefit to a great lunch.
Ten year old Ahansonie Herd said, "Well you don't be as bored as you be when you're at home ... and when you come here ... you meet friends ... you don't have to go to their house ... you can meet here and play."
For more information on the free lunch program ... you can call 559-266-FOOD.
fresno, local, liz harrison
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