Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1013556

Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 19, 2014

Such thing as a free lunch

By David Hotle | Jun 10, 2013
As the free lunch program enters its fourth year in the Washington School District, the numbers of participants are increasing. Last week, over 300 students per day were served.

When the Washington School District introduced the free lunch program in 2009, the average number of students who participated was 192 each day. Since the program started on June 3 this year, the average number of students served has been 310.
District Food Service Director Yota Giardino said again this year free lunches will be offered to students under the age of 18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lincoln Elementary cafeteria. No registration or identification is required. She also said that buses are bringing students to Lincoln from pickup points in Brighton, HACAP, the ASSURE Center, Stewart, Immanuel Lutheran Church and Washington High School.
“In 2009 we became an open site,” Giardino said. “Before, we had a site that was enrolled, so students in summer school or the camps could eat and it was based on income. Now it is open to the entire district free of charge.”
Giardino stressed that there are no income guidelines to use the program. She said that adults have to pay for their meals, but she is seeing many adults come to eat lunch with their children. The program runs through July 26.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sponsors the program. The district is reimbursed for all meals served to people under 18.
“The program is to ensure that students in a geographical area are able to receive nutritious food during the summer months,” Giardino said.
She said that the USDA provides nutritional guidelines for the meals. According to the Healthy Kids Act of 2010, schools are required to serve more fruits and vegetables. Giardino said that the fruits and vegetables have been incorporated into the buffet line. The lunches cater toward the likes and dislikes of students, she said, but still ensure the students are introduced to healthier foods.
Giardino said that the push toward more nutritious foods and the introduction of these foods has created more enjoyment of vegetables among students. She said that the more a vegetable is offered, the more likely the student is to take it. She said the number of vegetable and fruit courses being served is increasing.
Cafeteria staff also pack lunches for the baseball and softball teams training or competing during the summer.
“We are a hustle, bustle society, and people don’t have the time they used to with which to focus on preparing a meal for the kids at home, Giardino said. “We are all guilty of it. If you don’t introduce it during the day, they won’t have access to it.”

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