Summer lunch program offered in Webster City

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, unless you happen to be a child in Webster City.

Children age 18 and under will be eligible for a free lunch meal program this summer hosted through the Webster City Community School District’s food service program. Beginning on June 10, the lunch program will be hosted at Webster City Middle school on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Lori Hartnett, food service director for the district, said the district was notified of their eligibility for this program through the state because more than half of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced school meals. Getting participants for the program early during summer break is key for the program. Hartnett said the program has to see an average of 125 to 150 attendees each day for it to continue through the month of June and into the rest of the summer.

The lunch program is open to all children. Hartnett said that students with visiting family or friends are welcome to bring them as well. Their age is the only requirement to receive a free meal. Anyone over 18 years old can also attend the program, but must pay $3.50 for a meal. By allowing adults to purchase meals through the program, Hartnett said she hopes it encourages parents to eat with their children.

The lunches are planned to be served at 11:30 a.m. with an activity following the meal. Those activities might include tag, a walk around the school and encouraging children to pick up trash and making coloring books and reading material available on a rainy day. Several partners, including Van Diest Medical Center and Kendall Young Library have expressed interest in partnering with the program to host activities.

“I don’t want this program to be like a soup kitchen,” Hartnett said. “I want it to be an opportunity. Our lives are busy, and I hope this program can be something cool that kids can stop by on their way to the pool and see the value in coming to school for lunch.”

A couple food service workers will be on hand for the program’s meals. Hartnett said they know better than most how to safetly handle and clean up food and follow nutritional guidelines for meals. Volunteers will also be on hand to greet participants, help with the activity and generally supervise the program.