With Summer Hunger An Issue, A Number Of Utah Schools Are Providing Free Meals For Children
Summer poses a problem for school-aged children in regards to their food. Many school districts in Utah take part in a federally funded program that offers meals to kids struggling with summer hunger.
Pam Tsakalos, the food service director at Davis School District, says just because school is out for the summer, doesn't mean kids are being well-fed at home.
According to Feeding America, one in six Utah children struggle with hunger and that’s why some Davis County schools provide free lunch and breakfast to students 18 years or younger.
“I mean, that’s what’s happening. We have hungry people in our own county and our own neighborhoods,” said Tsakalos.
The Summer Food Program in Davis County has been funded by the federal and state government for roughly 25 years and Tsakalos believes it has benefitted students.
“They get a healthy meal,” she said. “They have some camaraderie because they come with their friends and so they learn good manners and they eat in a nice, clean area.”
Part of government regulations, schools must supply children with a half cup of fruit or vegetables and a set amount of meat and grain.
With little hands reaching for nutritious items on the self-serve food bars, Tsakalos says she enjoys watching children choose what they are going to eat.
“You know, as an adult, you think mashed potatoes only go with gravy; well mashed potatoes will go with a peanut butter sandwich and it will go with whatever they choose,” she said.
With the Summer Food Program ending today, Tsakalos says the Davis School District has served nearly 75,000 students this summer. She says 26 percent of students in Davis County are on free or reduced meals, which is comparatively low to some schools in the state.