NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - The US Department of Agriculture Summer Lunch Program offers free meals to children and teens across the nation. The program's success relies tremendously on local school districts and volunteers.
The collaboration is working in Nacogdoches.
When summertime arrives, these kiddos at Pioneer Park are accustomed to picking up two free meals Monday through Friday, courtesy of the Nacogdoches ISD Student Nutrition Department. The service has gone on for 24 years, said NISD Director of Student Nutrition Robin Thacker.
"We have 24 locations throughout the city," Thacker said.
Certified sites can be found in parks, front yards, club sites and vacation bible schools.
Nacogdoches Summer Feeding Coordinator Teresa Morales prepares months out. Estimations are based on last year's turnout.
"Last year our numbers for breakfast we averaged about 15,009 and for lunch and supper we averaged at 27,886, so our cost of revenue was $137,000," said Teresa Morales, the summer feeding coordinator for Nacogdoches ISD.
The free nutritious meals are for any person 18 years and younger. Adults can purchase a meal for a nominal fee.
At many sites, volunteers offer crafts for the children and provide weekend backpack meals.
The Summer Lunch Program is great for traveling families. The USDA offers an online Summer Meal Site Finder. Just type in the address, city and zip code and the ten closest sites will be listed on the USDA Summer Lunch Program website. In Texas, text 'FOOD' to 877877 and received a message back with a location closest to where they can get free summer meals.
"You could decide, 'Hey, I'm in Amarillo today, and I would like to see where I can eat in Amarillo,' and they'll have sites listed, so you can see how to get there. It tells you the times and everything," Thacker said.
The Summer Lunch Program has an economic benefit nationwide through added employment. In Nacogdoches, 25 district workers are on the payroll thanks to USDA reimbursements. They're helping ensure no children go hungry this summer.
This summer, USDA plans to serve more than 200 million free meals nationwide.
Click here for a link on finding summer meals in your community or in a city you're visiting go.