ETX summer nutrition programs fill students' stomachs, larger ne - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

ETX summer nutrition programs fill students' stomachs, larger need

Michelle Mitchell, Pine Tree ISD's Child Nutrition Director. Michelle Mitchell, Pine Tree ISD's Child Nutrition Director.
Students in the Pine Tree Elementary School cafeteria Students in the Pine Tree Elementary School cafeteria

The reasons kids look forward to summer are pretty simple -- no school, and no homework, for two months.

But for many children all over the state, being in school every day also means getting full meals in the school cafeteria -- and when they're home for the summer, that's more food that mom and dad have to provide.

But thanks to the Texas Department of Agriculture and some federal reimbursements, children all over the state are able to continue eating at their schools all summer long.

This is the first year Pine Tree ISD in Longview is holding a summer nutrition program -- they started last week, and were feeding almost 100 children by week's end.

"We see the need in the community that our children aren't getting the nutritious meals that they need, so this gave us an opportunity to meet those needs of the community," said Michelle Mitchell, Pine Tree ISD's Child Nutrition Director.

Pine Tree ISD's program is part of a Seamless Summer Feeding Program created by the federal government for schools to continue their school meal service into the summer.

"Pine Tree is over 50 percent free and reduced lunch, so the need was there, and this is just our answer to that need," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the Seamless Summer program isn't income-based -- any child between the ages of one and 18 can come eat breakfast and lunch for free.

"We're not district-based, we're children-based," she said. "So any child, whether they're from Longview, Gladewater, any of our area schools, they can come see what Pine Tree's about and eat with us."

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, more than 21 million meals were served at more than 5,000 sites just like Pine Tree's last summer -- and it's all fulfilling a need Mitchell says isn't new.

"I think it's just coming more to the forefront. I think more people are getting involved in really seeing the need," she said. "The children can learn better when they don't have to worry about their stomachs growling."

And Mitchell hopes the fact that lunch money isn't necessary will bring hundreds, if not thousands, of kids through their kitchen this summer.

"Hopefully as parents get to know that we're here, that instead of going out to eat, they can just bring them here," she said.

Pine Tree ISD isn't the only local school that has a Seamless Summer Program -- we know that Tyler, Gilmer, Gladewater, Lufkin, and Longview ISDs also have programs, as well as the East Texas Food Bank.

Parents, you can call 211 to find the location nearest you to send your kids for meals. Those meals are free, and as Ms. Mitchell said, your kids don't have to be enrolled in that school district for them to eat at that school during the summer.

Pine Tree ISD is serving breakfast and lunch through August 2. Breakfast will be served from 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. From June 11 to July 17, excluding July 4, meals will be served Monday - Friday at Pine Tree Primary School. From July 18 - August 2, meals will be served Monday - Thursday at Pine Tree Elementary School.

For a full list of locations serving free or reduced-price meal programs this summer, visit the Texas Department of Agriculture's Summer Nutrition Program's website.

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