Meal program attracts many local children

The Webster City Middle School is a busy place around lunch time during the school year. But this summer, it’s been just as busy with hundreds of young people from the community taking part in the summer meal program.

The program, which offers a free meal for young people ages 3 to 18, has proven to be very popular even in its first week of offerings. Todd Hartnett, food service director at Webster City Schools, said the response from families in the community has been overwhelming.

“Everything’s been going really good,” he said. “The first day we planned for 150 and we had 280 show up.”

That total includes about 60 children who are bussed in from two local day care centers, he said.

Over the next few days, that number increased even more, growing to about 370 people. Adults are also able to dine with their children for a nominal charge, Hartnett said.

“We think that by the end of June, those numbers may climb to as many as 500 a day,” he said.

The district was notified of its eligibility for this program through the state because more than half of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced school meals.

The program, offered Monday through Friday, also includes an activity for the children. If the weather is nice, Hartnett said that activity will take place outside. On rainy days, indoor activities are planned.

On Thursday, volunteers were passing out free books to young people, courtesy of donations from area libraries.