The Madison School District is providing a free summer lunch program for all children ages 18 and younger in order to serve the families that are in need in Madison County and surrounding areas.
“[The program] is designed to help lower income kids who may not get the opportunity to eat more than a meal or two a day to help them know that there’s a meal there for them,” said Dave Keck, director of Food Services for the Madison School District.
According to the Madison School District website, the program includes three rules: those receiving free lunch are asked to stay on-site to eat and not to take food away from the site; parents cannot eat any of their children’s food; and all are asked to clean after themselves when they are finished eating their lunch.
According to the website, parents are invited to buy a lunch for a reduced price.
“There are a lot of kids that just need something to eat, even in Rexburg, Idaho,” Keck said.
According to the Madison School District website, the free summer lunch program is located at two sites through the end of June, and one site for the remainder of the summer.
The Madison Middle School cafeteria is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will be open until June 26.
The second location will run Monday through Thursday until Aug. 1 at the north side of Porter Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We will even take BYU-Idaho students, it’s 1 through 18-years-old, so any BYU-Idaho students who are starving can come and eat as long as they meet the age requirement,” Keck said.
Keck said many who come through the program are children from families of BYU-I students.
“It’s a good program for the kids that need it,” he said.
The free summer lunch program is funded by the federal government and the Idaho State Department of Education.
Keck said that the Madison School District is reimbursed for all of the funds that are used for the free lunch program.
Keck said the program has been in operation for almost 12 years.
He said that the lunch ladies do not get paid very well and are unable to work very many hours, so the Free Lunch Program gives them an opportunity to make some extra money.
Keck said he does the program to keep his staff working throughout the summer.
“You look at these lunch ladies who serve lunches to kids every day, and they work so darn hard for the three or four hours that they are there. They don’t get a lot of money and they don’t get a ton of respect, but yet, the kids always remember them,” Keck said. “That’s the positive part of my job; seeing how hard these ladies work and seeing how much they impact these kids.”
He said the program feeds an average of 300 to 400 children a day.
According to feedingamerica.org, 21.6 percent of children in Idaho struggle with food insecurity and hunger.
“I love the opportunity to feed some kids that need it,” Keck said.