HOULTON, Maine — Although school officials soon will be releasing students for another year, school breakfast and lunch will continue to be served throughout the summer.
Starting Monday, June 19, free breakfast and lunch will be available for children 18 years of age and younger thanks to a federal grant, according to Joyce Smith, food services director for RSU 29.
“There are no income requirements,” Smith explained. “We are able to do this because 50 percent of our student population is eligible for free or reduced lunch during the school year.”
Food will be offered at four sites — Houlton Middle-High School; the former Wellington School in Monticello; the Houlton Band of Maliseets gymnasium; and the Houlton United Methodist Church. Breakfast will be held from 7:30-8 a.m. at Houlton Middle-High School cafeteria; from 8-8:30 a.m. at the HBMI gym; and from 8:30-8:50 a.m. at Wellington School.
Lunch is served from 11-noon at Houlton Middle-High School, while Wellington School, the HBMI gym and Houlton United Methodist Church will serve lunch from 11:30 to noon.
Meals are available Mondays through Thursdays from June 19 to Aug. 3. The program is not offered the week of July 3-7.
The district’s kitchen staff also provides meals for ACAP’s daycare, Houlton’s summer school program, the Just for Kids summer program at the Houlton Recreation Department and the Greater Houlton Christian Academy daycare.
Breakfasts consist of cereal, cinnamon rolls, bagels and muffins, while lunches feature common school favorites such as chicken fingers, cheeseburgers, cheese pizza and chicken burgers, with fresh fruit and veggies.
Last year, the program averaged about 350 youngsters a day, which sounds like a large number, but not so much considering the district makes meals for more than 900 students a day during the school year.
“We don’t expect to get 900 kids during the summer, but I want people to know this is available,” Smith said.
Funding for the program comes from a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The district is reimbursed for each student who participates.
Participants are encouraged to call in advance as meals are offered on a “first-come-first-served basis,” Smith said. With students calling ahead, the district also will have a better idea how many meals it needs to prepare. To sign up, call 538-3814 (Houlton High School), 538-8625 (Wellington), 532-2240 (HBMI), or 694-1545 (Methodist Church).
“I don’t think that the public realizes that kids can come in and get free breakfast or lunch,” said Karen Carmichael, kitchen manager for RSU 29. “I know the Methodist Church last year tried and tried to give their food away, even going door to door. We know there are kids out there during the summer that are hungry.”