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Kids and families eat free with USDA’s summer food service program

Kids and families eat free with USDA’s summer food service program

Kassidy Gallagher and her three kids initially came to Bonner Springs Elementary School this week for the Kids and Big Rigs event, hosted by Bonner Springs Unified School District 204 and Bonner Springs Parks and Recreation. When she saw free lunch was being offered to kids 18 years old and under, she decided to utilize that opportunity.  

The event kicked off the start to USD 204’s summer lunch program and offered kids a chance to explore vehicles and ask questions to their operators. 

Gallagher said she has never taken advantage of a summer meal program before, but knows the importance of it, especially for families who may rely on them. 

“It was very easy. You just walk in and grab a tray,” Gallagher said. “There weren’t any signups or anything, so I did love how easy it was to just park and walk right in and feed my family.” 

Administered by the Food and Nutrition Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the summer food service program provides free, nutritious meals to kids 18 and under. Those interested in partaking in their local Summer Food Service Program can simply just show up to the location. Registration and living in the district are not required. Debbie Reischman and her family live in Shawnee. She saw a Facebook post about the Kids and Big Rigs event in Bonner Springs and decided to bring her kids. 

Debbie Reischman and her family live in Shawnee. She saw a Facebook post about the Kids and Big Rigs event in Bonner Springs and decided to bring her kids. 

“Not only do we get to enjoy a fun event, but also spend time together eating lunch,” she said. 

Reischman said she wants other parents to take advantage of summer food service programs and to know they have this resource to get a nutritious meal. 

Taking advantage of the free meals does more than satisfy hunger, though. 

“A lot of people have a view that it’s only for people who need it. What I really want people to understand is that the more we normalize it, the more it makes it accessible for everyone,” said Joseph Pruitt, USD 204 director of nutrition services. “It’s a great way to get a free meal that also benefits the schools. You’re supporting the schools and the community. By normalizing it, it makes it so everyone might be willing to come and more people who actually need it might be willing to come because they won’t fear they’re being singled out.” 

Pruitt said his staff loves to still see the kids during the summer months.  

“We have a lot of personal connections around the community,” he said. “We know that there are a lot of people who need the meals. There are a lot of kids who would not be eating good meals or hot meals every day if we weren’t doing this.” 

USD 204 served 258 kids and 51 adults on Wednesday. 

To learn more about the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, click here. To find a summer meal program near you, click here

Along with free meals offered during the summer months, families can explore nature parks, museums and much more across the state, all at no cost. 

Sunflower Summer is back for the fourth year in a row to offer Kansas K-12 students and their families complimentary access to tourism attractions across the state. 

Previously housed in the Kansas State Department of Education, the program is now operated by Kansas Tourism. The Sunflower Summer app is available for download on both Apple and Android. 

The 2024 Sunflower Summer season is underway and runs through Aug. 11. It includes more than 220 tourism attractions. For a complete list of participating locations and more information, click here

Posted: Jun 6, 2024,
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