- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) - A program offering meals to students in low-income areas when school is not in session is serving on average more than 400 children in the Mitchell area this summer, that’s over 50 more children than last year.

Children stop for lunch at Longfellow Elementary School Monday through Friday. The meals, which are served from May 31 through July 29, are free for people younger than 18 and adults can pay $4 each.

Debra Lunder, the school’s food service manager, said the program has grown each summer since it started 14 years ago. The first two years that the school offered the free meals 125 children showed up each day.

“The word gets around and we get a few more and a few more,” Lunder told the Daily Republic (http://bit.ly/29dGajG ).

The meals served at the Mitchell elementary school are offered through the Summer Food Service Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in South Dakota by the state Department of Education. Ninety-five sites across the state are feeding children through the program this year.

Lunchtime can be a bit busy during “Taco Day.” The students’ favorites also include chicken-fried steak, pizza and hot dogs.

“It’s a very positive thing for the community and for the kids to have,” said Leann Carmody, the food services director for the Mitchell School District. “Some kids come just to socialize. … It makes a big difference.”

Lunder says the school is “on a mission” to feed children healthier meals. She said the lunch offerings include a salad bar, which is a big difference from “back in the day” when the school just had apples and oranges.

Children who may be hungry after eating a meal can buy seconds for $1. However, Lunder said, must children are full after eating one meal.

Individuals can find facilities serving meals across the state by using the online tool available at www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks . The state Education Department says people should periodically check for feeding sites as more will be added regularly to the Summer Meal Site Finder. Information is also available by texting “food” to 877-877.

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Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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