Free summer lunches for kids

By Jillian Marshall

July 18, 2014 Updated Jul 18, 2014 at 7:15 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) When school is in session, having a nutritious lunch or breakfast is always an option for students, but what about in the summer months? Two local programs are offering healthy options for kids this summer.

"We are feeding hungry kids in the area that don't have access to food otherwise," said Patrick Walsh, Food Service Director for Binghamton City School District.

On a Friday afternoon in July, the last thing you'd expect to see is kids in a school cafeteria. Hundreds of students get free breakfasts and lunches through the Broome-Tioga BOCES Summer Lunch program.

"A lot of students will get the nutrition they need throughout the school year, but during the summer, a lot of kids go without meals," said Broome-Tioga BOCES registered dietitian Julie Tucker.

Any child under the age of 18 can get free lunch, breakfast and even snacks through the program. Walsh said this gives students full stomachs throughout the summer, and teaches them how to make healthy, nutritious choices.

"Depending on the day of the week, we have different components that we put in. Either be a fruit component everyday, bread-grains, protein component, and a milk of course," Walsh said.

Johnson City School District is just one of 22 places kids can go this summer in Broome County to get a free lunch. To find the location nearest to you and hours for food, text 'food' to 877877.

"During the summer it's just really important for students to be well fed and nourished to get them ready for the school year," Tucker said.

That's something Executive Director of Church Commons Robert Henrich agrees with.

"What we can do for a child today, in terms of giving them access to nutritional food, is really something that can yield a long term benefit," Henrich said.

Common Ground Christian Community Center in Owego is also offering free breakfasts and lunches throughout the summer.

It's all part of the federally funded Summer Food Service Program.

Breakfast is offered from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. each week day morning and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

"During the school year, there are a number of children, as a matter of fact. In this district there are over 1,000 kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches. And of course, during the summer break, they don't have access to that. So the summer food service program is designed to fill that void," Henrich said.

This program in Owego is offered until Friday, August 22.