- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

MONROE, La. (AP) - The cafeteria is a busy place at Ouachita Parish’s Carver Elementary School despite the fact that students are out for the summer.

The school is part of the Ouachita Parish Summer Feeding program which provides a free breakfast and lunch to anyone 18 years old or younger regardless of residence or school district.

The News-Star reports (https://tnsne.ws/1kDuWBE) other sites include Carroll Junior High, Lincoln Elementary and Berg Jones Elementary.

Meals are provided daily at the four sites at no charge. The program’s funded by a federal reimbursement grant.

Kristy George of Monroe brings her children Padrea, 3, second-grader Alayshia, and sixth-grader Jalaree to Carver every day for breakfast and lunch.

On Wednesday, the three girls sat in front of plates heaped with fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, fruit and a biscuit. All three girls said they liked the food - even the vegetables.

“I told them they need to eat their food because there are people out there who don’t have anything to eat,” George said. “They’re not going to sit here and play in it.”

Food nutrition supervisor Stephanie Weaver said the numbers of young people participating is normally steady from year to year, but has been increasing gradually since the program began on Monday.

On Tuesday, the program served 1,372 lunches and 425 breakfasts.

“Our meals are nutritionally sound, so why heat up your kitchen in the summer when you don’t have to?” Weaver asked.

Summer camps even make use of the meals during the summer, she said.

Individuals or families are not required to give advanced notice before stopping by for a meal, but Weaver asks that larger groups contact the school in advance so that they can be sure to have enough food prepared.

Meal programs at Lincoln and Berg Jones will be open through June 25. Those at Carroll Junior High and Carver Elementary will be open through July 25.

Weaver said the program is not designed to make a profit, but to break even financially and provide an essential service.

“Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean kids don’t need to eat,” she said.

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Information from: The News-Star, https://www.thenewsstar.com

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