Programs throughout Fort Wayne are helping to make sure kids get a nutritious lunch during the summertime.
One of the biggest servers of affordable summer grub is the venerable Community Harvest Food Bank, and its Kids Café program.
The food bank operates five centers throughout Allen County where kids can go to get the free or reduced-price lunch they normally have access to during the school year.
Served at no cost to the kids, the lunches are very similar to the ones they might get at their school cafeterias during the school year, said Melissa Hoover, TEFAP and Kids Café Supervisor for Community Harvest.
The meals usually consist of two ounces of protein, two ounces of grains, one-half cup each of fruits and vegetables, and a milk. Those requirements come in a variety of forms, according to Hoover, from chicken and burgers to meatloaf or spaghetti.
The program, which is funded by the Indiana Department of Education, typically serves up to 250 children each day, Hoover said. Total costs for the lunches vary, but she said last summer it wasn’t unusual for the bank to spend about $1,800 a month on providing meals for all their centers.
And the program doesn’t just offer food, Hoover said. Many sites also provide summer activities for the children as well. Some offer weekly field trips – including a trip to the roller-skating rink — computer learning and arts and crafts. The café at the Renaissance YMCA even offers a program called Lunch Patrol, where children not only get a lunch, but get to enjoy a live DJ, face painting, balloon artists, a splash pad, and some time with members of the Fort Wayne Police Department, and the police dog, Bella.
Another lunch program is operated though the Fort Wayne Community Schools, and is called the Summer Food Service Program for Children (SFSPC), and has more than 40 sites that offer a free mid-day meal.
Schools near Waynedale that offer the lunches include Kekionga Middle School, located at 2929 Engle Road; Waynedale Elementary, at 7201 Elzey Street; and Indian Village Elementary, 3835 Wehnohah Lane.
The lunches are served Monday through Friday, unless otherwise noted. Most lunch sites began serving on June 5, and continue the service through Friday, July 28. No meals will be served on Tuesday, July 4, in observance of the Independence Day holiday.
For the Kids’ Café program, there’s no need to sign up or fill out any forms, according to Hoover.
“They can just go to one of our centers,” Hoover said. “There’s no requirements; no paperwork.”
She said the Kids’ Café is essential to fighting one of the worst problems of our time: hungry children.
“Childhood hunger is a terrible thing,” Hoover said. “If our kids are hungry, they can’t learn, they can’t play, they can’t function. That’s why programs like this are so important.”
Those interested in finding out more about the program, or to locate their nearest feeding center should either log into the food bank’s website, at www.chfb.org, or call Hoover directly at (260) 449-9713 ext. 101.