- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas will offer free meals for children this summer at 100 more sites than last year, advocates for hungry families said.

This week, 44 school cafeterias and other Wichita sites will begin offering free meals as part of the annual summer food service program, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1PIbjcs ). The meals are for children who count on free breakfasts and lunches during the school year.

As advocates focus their efforts on feeding more kids during the summer, they also expect more sites to open statewide.

Peggy McAdoo, assistant director of child nutrition and wellness for the Kansas Department of Education, said there may be more than 450 sites this year, nearly 100 more locations than last summer.

“We are frantically making final approvals, but it looks like we may be over 450 sites this year,” she said.

The Kansas Food Bank signed on as a sponsor this year and will supply meals to 19 sites in rural communities, including many that have not had summer food service programs before.

In Liberal, Garden City and Topeka, summer-meal kickoffs will include the Body Venture exhibit, a display promoting the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. Several public libraries in rural Kansas have agreed to host meal programs, and some are planning to combine mobile book programs with food trucks.

In Wichita, the free breakfasts, lunches or afternoon snacks are part of Kid Power Cafe, the annual summer food service program. The program is run by the Wichita school district and paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is open to those younger than 18 and doesn’t require any paperwork.

Steve Coen, president of the Kansas Health Foundation, said he hopes increased focus and funding will make a difference.

“We’ve worked really hard, especially in northwest Kansas, which was just a desert in terms of summer meal sites,” Coen said. “A lot of these (new) sites are people just joining together and volunteering to host. . They don’t have to be schools.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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