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Summer meal program for kids returns

A fourth location added to this summer's program
by: file photo Greg Lynch, the Estacada School District’s operations director, hands out lunches to youngsters during last year’s Summer Meal Program. The program reopened Monday.

With the enlargement of the Estacada School District's Summer Meal Program deemed a success last summer, the program, which provides free meals to Estacada-area children throughout the summer months, will be expanding even more this year.

The Summer Meal Program - which reopened Monday and continues through Aug. 19 - will provide a free hot lunch during the week to all children ages 18 and under. Last summer, with the help of a retired school bus, the school district's Operations Director Greg Lynch was able to expand the program from its previous delivery to one location at Clackamas River Elementary to three locations, including Eagle Crest Mobile Estates and Eagle Creek Elementary.

'At those three sites, we fed over 4,000 kids last summer,' Lynch said. 'In my opinion, it was a monumental success.'

Lynch wants to continue that momentum and this summer will be adding a fourth delivery location at Barton Community Church.

Lynch said close to 55 percent of students within the school district are economically disadvantaged, and the program is a place where those students can get a hot lunch similar to what they would receive if they were in school.

Food such as hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pizza, sandwiches and other items popular with kids are a part of the menu, along with a variety of side dishes and drinks.

'We are really excited about starting the second year of our new program,' Lynch said. 'The kids love it. I am looking forward to getting it going again.'

The summer program is an expansion of the free and reduced meal program operated during the regular school year, but for the summer no income requirements apply. All meals are served Monday through Friday. Free breakfast is served at Clackamas River Elementary from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., with lunch served from noon to 1 p.m.; Eagle Crest Mobile Estates, 11:20 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.; Barton Community Church, noon to 12:30 p.m.; and Eagle Creek Elementary, noon to 12:30 p.m. Adults can purchase breakfast for $2.50 and lunch for $3.50.

In order to expand the program and provide free meals at more locations last year, Lynch put a retired bus back into service. Lynch and school district staff members removed most of the seating from the bus and added shelving and a tray rack to transport the food. Lynch uses a large ice chest to transport cold items and an insulated box to maintain the temperature for hot lunch items.

That bus, Lynch said, was popular in last year's Estacada Fourth of July parade, and he plans to enter the bus in this year's parade as well.

'We took second in the parade last year and this year we are shooting for number one,' he said. 'It's great because kids can identify with it right away. It's just really gratifying to see the response from the kids when they see the bus roll up.'

Estacada's Summer Meal Program is part of the National School Lunch Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and is operated in over 101,000 schools and child care locations. The Food and Nutrition Service administers the program at the federal level, and it is administered by the Oregon Department of Education in Oregon.

Lynch is asking for anyone interested in volunteering as a site monitor to call him at 503-630-6871, ext. 2913, for more information.