NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Just because school is out doesn't mean public school district nutrition departments aren't busy. Those participating in the Texas Department of Agriculture and the USDA's summer food program keep a tight schedule.
In Nacogdoches, the effort is so vigorous that the district has received state recognition.
The employees at the central kitchen for the Nacogdoches Independent School District are busy.
'They're here by 6 a.m. getting ready for breakfast," said Robin Thacker, the director of NISD's Student Nutrition Department. "We have several breakfast locations across the county and they'll be here until about 2:30 or 3 to make sure we get things ready for tomorrow."
A strict schedule is important when coordinating lunch and breakfast meals for 1,500 children.
"We're feeding a fifth of our kids in the summer food program which is awesome," Thacker said.
Eighty percent of NISD's school children are from economically disadvantaged households. That is a huge number for a district its size.
"We're out there to feed the children to make sure they're eating when the parents are not at home," said Teresa Morales, the coordinator for the NISD summer feeding program.
In the summer, all children are served no matter their income. Some come from even outside the district. Lunches are even offered to Vacation Bible Schools so expenses can be kept down.
"We're out there trying to find our kids and we're out there looking, actively seeking out new locations for our kids because we want to feed all of our kids that we can," Thacker said.
Outreach worker Billie Packard has been serving summer meals for 17 years. She watches her babies grow up.
"We have been feeding before they could walk. They were in strollers," Packard said. "And when they see us out in public or anywhere, they scream miss lunch ladies."
The lunches are taken where children gather. Picnic tables are delivered to neighborhood yards. Lunches are served at apartment complexes. The boys and girls club and summer school students receive them too.
At Iron Wheel Baptist Church volunteers keep students from breakfast to lunch for tutoring and enrichment programs.
"We do spiritual development. We also have Jump Start. We also do reading, math, and activities," said Mildred Patton, a church volunteer.
The Rotary Club provides a mobile library at two city parks where meals are served. The NISD summer food program is setting an example statewide.
"The TDA has given us two awards," Thacker said. "One for our outreach, obviously, we're out there beyond schools, beyond the borders of the schools and we also have a longevity one."
NISD is beginning its 21st year as a participant in the federally funded summer food program.
Some smaller school districts within 15 miles of NISD have opted out of providing summer lunches. The state allows the waiver knowing NISD can provide the meals. The district is reimbursed but is proud to report that it's maintained spending to the break-even level.