- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The addition of two Anchorage School District sites participating in the federal Summer Food Service Program has allowed the district to reach more children from low-income families.

The Anchorage School District’s student nutrition coordinator, Tanya Krause, said she hopes the district, which now covers nine sites, will serve more meals this summer. Last year, employees served 16,000 lunches, reported The Alaska Dispatch News (https://bit.ly/1MIbmiI).

“We’re just trying to be where the kids are,” said Alden Thern, the School District’s head of Student Nutrition. “Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean your needs change.”

Employees have been serving free breakfast and lunch to children each weekday in June and will continue through most of July. Some of the sites include Bartlett High School, Begich Middle School, Central Middle School, Creekside Park Elementary School, East High School, Muldoon Elementary School and Russian Jack Elementary School.

At Clark Middle School and at Mountain View Lions Park children just lunch is served.

At all of the participating sites, at least 50 percent of the student population qualifies for reduced-price or free lunches. This also qualifies the site if it has a summer school program as well for the food program, Thern said.

Mountain View Lions Park’s qualification is tied to Mountain View Elementary School, which had 92 percent of its students coming from low-income families last year. The school was one of 30 Anchorage campuses that offered free meals to every student as part of the federal program during the regular school year.

“This is a community that really needs it,” Arnold said of the summer food program in Mountain View.

As part of the program, the federal government reimburses the Anchorage School District about $5.82 for each lunch passed out.

School districts, nonprofits, and food banks across the state have participated in the Summer Food Service Program, said Jo Dawson, the state’s Child Nutrition program manager.

Dawson said between 2008 and 2014, the daily number of kids participating in the program increased by 164 percent.

“We’ve definitely been in growth mode and it’s really wonderful,” she said. “For the low-income kids, if they’re relying on school meals during the year, the summer is a huge period of time not to have that support.”

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com

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