Free Summer Meals are back

Orange Park Junior High and Montclair Elementary are the program’s newest editions

By Kenneth Detwyler Jr.
Posted 6/13/18

ORANGE PARK – Many students across Clay County are finding themselves back in school this summer, taking advantage of the school district’s free summer meals program.

The long-running service …

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Free Summer Meals are back

Orange Park Junior High and Montclair Elementary are the program’s newest editions

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Many students across Clay County are finding themselves back in school this summer, taking advantage of the school district’s free summer meals program.

The long-running service allows children, 18 and under, to receive free hot meals at select schools. Adults accompanying the children can partake in a meal for just $2. Food is available Monday through Friday with breakfast from 8-9 a.m. and lunch from Noon-1 p.m.

“Hunger doesn’t stop when the school year ends, so it’s important that we continue to serve meals to our community,” said Susan Glover, director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Clay County School District.

One of those meal locations is at Orange Park Junior High where the cafeteria has been packed each day with children from the Bright Minds Camp and those walking from the surrounding neighborhoods. OPJH and Montclair Elementary are the newest free lunch sites in the county. To qualify, schools must have at least 50 percent of its student population receive free or reduced lunch and be in a geographic area of need.

This summer marks the end of the program at Middleburg Elementary due to low turnout from previous years. However, families in the Middleburg and Clay Hill communities are in close proximity to the Wilkinson Junior High location.

“Everybody likes a free meal, it’s not that McDonald’s food or that unhealthy stuff, It’s good, healthy food, the same stuff we feed them at lunch,” said Patricia Walsh, OPJH cafeteria manager. “They get up out of bed and come up here to get their breakfast and lunch, because mama was at work and they need something to eat besides cereal or that sugary stuff.”

Since the program’s launch, kids have been very receptive. Leona Fordham, 5, enjoyed the food so much, that she was unable to pick just one favorite meal. While her brother Toray, 8, was mostly excited to eat some ice cream. They were among the students who recently packed the OPJH cafeteria to receive a free hot meal.

“This is our third year doing it, it helps out a lot with summer food costs, since we are low income” said Shelley Clessas, the Fordham siblings’ babysitter. The fact that Clay County can do this and support this is great, because there are a lot of kids that go hungry, it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Additionally, the district is currently testing a food truck for use in the Clay County schools. By next summer, the truck will help further expand the free summer food service, replacing the Mobile Bus which operated in previous years. The district food truck is tentatively scheduled to hit the streets beginning Aug. 20.

The Summer Meal Program runs now through Aug. 2, during that time the district remains committed to making sure its children won’t have to worry about going hungry this summer.

“Order, order, order; that is my pet peeve, I want the last child to have the same thing as the first child,” said Glover. “As far as running out food, it should not happen.”

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