Kids will have access to free meals with MFL MarMac’s Summer Feeding Program

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Area kids 18 and under will have access to free lunches this summer through MFL MarMac’s participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. Meals will be offered Monday through Friday, beginning Tuesday, May 31, in Monona, Farmersburg, Luana, Marquette and McGregor.

The program will be a helpful resource, said Summer Feeding Program director Brandi Crozier, as many families in the district face food insecurity issues.

“Families will benefit to have access to daily meals because of parents working or to offset the financial burden of kids being home for the summer,” she said.

The program will also provide kids with needed nutritional foods.

“Iowa is last in fruit and vegetable consumption—kids are not consuming the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Some may go all summer without much nutritional substance,” Crozier added. “Nutrition is the foundation to living well, aiding physical health, academics and behavior.”

Crozier said MFL MarMac did not qualify for the program as a district because its free/reduced meal rates were not 50 percent or greater. The school district’s communities—minus Monona—do qualify, however, based upon the Census data used by the USDA. Only one neighborhood in Monona qualified, a triangular area that includes Gateway Park, Quillin’s, Monona Wire and Art’s Way Scientific, allowing meals to be offered in Gateway Park, the only public space in the neighborhood.

The Monona school kitchen will serve as the preparation location for the meals, which will be sack lunches. The lunches will then be placed in coolers and transported to every service location. Sites include:

—McGregor Artesian Park (behind the library), serving from 10:50 to 11:20 a.m.

—Marquette Bench Park, serving from 11:05 to 11:35 a.m.

—Marquette City Park (under the bridge), serving from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m.

—Marquette Roundhouse Addition, serving from 11:25 to 11:55 a.m.

—Farmersburg City Park, serving from 11 to 11:30 a.m.

—Luana City Park, serving from 11:25 to 11:55 a.m.

—Monona Gateway Park, serving from noon to 12:30 p.m. (Attendees are asked to reach the park by walking from the school playground, then behind the church and grocery store, without traveling on Main Street or in the Quillin’s parking lot.)

Crozier said Marquette has three sites because of its spread-out geography. Organizers want attendees to be able to safely travel to the meal locations.

Children who wish to participate in the Summer Feeding Program must be present at the site when the route truck arrives in order to receive a free meal. They must also eat the meal on-site. 

No child will be turned away because of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. Crozier said names do not have to be provided, and kids don’t even have to attend MFL MarMac or be a resident of the community in which they are receiving a meal.

“It’s inclusive of everyone, and you don’t have to receive free meals [at school]. Just show up if you’re hungry,” Crozier said. “We’re hoping kids who are home alone can make their way there. We want to let them know we’re there and available.”

If there is a plentiful supply of meals, Crozier said adults may purchase meals for $3.50. Meals for children who are not present may also be purchased for that amount.

Crozier said it’s more feasible for the school to serve larger quantities, so they want people to attend. If a site is serving fewer than five meals, they may have to consider closing it.

“The way to keep the program running is for people to use it and to get volunteers,” she said.

Volunteers are currently needed to serve as site monitors, Crozier noted. They will be responsible for making sure kids in attendance receive their free meal from the route driver, submitting the meal count to the driver, assuring the meals are eaten at the park and cleaning up any trash. 

If anyone is interested in volunteering, they can sign up online at bit.ly/bulldogfeedsignup. Volunteers can select the site at which they would like to help and sign up for as many days as their schedule allows. People can also contact Crozier or the district’s food service director, Pat Echard.

The Summer Feeding Program will run through July 29. Crozier said it will not continue into August because the kitchen needs to be deep-cleaned before the school year starts and there may be a lack of volunteers due to the popularity of family vacations that month.

The USDA’s Summer Food Service Program is a federally-funded, state-administered program, which reimburses providers who serve the meals. 

MFL MarMac also recently benefitted from a $1,000 donation to the program from the Prairie du Chien Walmart.

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