Summer program to whip up free meals



May 29, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Iola’s free summer food program will get cookin’ Monday morning.
The program, which runs June 1 to Aug. 7, is organized by Kathy Koehn, USD 257 food service coordinator, and run by volunteers. The USD 257 OPPA! food service team will prepare the meals.
All youths ages 1 to 18 years old will eat free. Adults may purchase breakfast for $2.20 and $3.45 for lunch. Everyone is welcome, regardless of where they live. Koehn encourages children from other cities to attend as well.
“I want this to be a fun thing and I want to get away from the stereotype of ‘it’s just for poor kids,’” Koehn said.
Kansas’ summer food program participation is the lowest in the United States. Daily participation for Iola last year was 175 children. Koehn would like that number to rise to 500 a day.
In order to increase participation Koehn created multiple food sites around Iola. The three sites will be at the Iola High school cafeteria, Trinity United Methodist, and Riverside Park.
“We wanted to go where the kids are,” Koehn said.
She reached out to leaders of kids camps, summer programs and daycares to increase the number of mouths being fed. She knew the park would be a hotspot for pool-goers.
“If there is a daycare or camp that wants to bring their kids to a site that would be great,” she said.
The Iola High School cafeteria, 207 N. Cottonwood, will serve breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Lunch will be served at 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Trinity United Methodist, 228 S. Kentucky St., will serve breakfast from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Lunch will be served from noon to 1 p.m.
The Riverside Park site will be located in the Little Theater inside the recreation building. This site will serve only lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Meals must be eaten on site but kids will be able to take one item (a grain, fruit or vegetable) off site. Menus will be posted at all the sites and will be placed on the program’s Facebook page.
Koehn has trained 80 volunteers for the summer program. Volunteers have come from Thrive, the Ministerial Alliance, the library, OPAA!, Food Pantry, Housing Authority, school administration and parents.
Area businesses have donated items for prizes for the “golden ticket” concept. Tickets will be placed on random sack lunches or trays. Children with a ticket will win a prize.
The school district will receive a reimbursement from USDA for the meals. Calorie count and USDA health guidelines are more relaxed during the summer months than they are during the school year.

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