The summer feeding program run by the Manatee County School District will serve meal No. 1,000,000 this year.
“That’ll probably happen in July,” said Regina Thoma, the Food and Nutrition Services director. “We’re keeping an eye on it.”
Since the program began, the district’s Food and Nutrition Services Department has fed any children under the age of 18 free meals during the summer who show up to one of the district’s sites. It’s part of a federal summer lunch program, all the meals are reimbursed and it doesn’t cost the district any money from the general fund to run the program.
During the summer, lunch is served at school sites, at community centers and on two school district buses that travel around the county, looking for hungry kids who need a bite to eat.
We know we’re getting it to the kids that need it.
Cindy Sloan, director, Food Bank of Manatee
This year’s program began on Monday, the week after school let out. The food buses, which are in the third year, will likely hit 50,000 meals this summer.
“That’s the one that blows me away,” Thoma said. The first summer, the district had one bus and last year, the district added the second bus.
This year, 17 schools and 30 community centers will offer lunch. The schools are typically those that offer summer school, but students outside the summer school session can drop by for lunch, officials said.
This year marks the second year the Food Bank of Manatee is joining the school district efforts in the summer, packing and handing out bags on Friday afternoons for the children to take home with them over the weekend. Each week last year, the Food Bank gave out 500 bags. This year they’re hoping to up it to 750, said Cindy Sloan, the director of the Food Bank.
“What we’re all doing in conjunction is making sure we’re taking care of our kids,” Sloan said.
3,500 The number of sites across Florida that feed children during the summer.
Each bag includes two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snack items to carry the children through the weekend. Sloan looks for kid-friendly food, like macaroni and cheese pouches, granola bars and apple sauces for the weekend bags.
“Kids are picky so you try to be as healthy as you can and as nutritious as you can, but you also want them to eat it. So you walk that fine line,” she said.
With schools out, the pantry usage numbers increase across the county, as the children aren’t getting their meals in school, Sloan said. Those looking to volunteer or donate to the Food Bank can call 941-747-3663.
To find locations for free meals during the summer, visit summerfoodflorida.org or call either 212, or 941-708-8770, ext. 1008. Site times vary. Check website for times.
Below is a list of Manatee County Schools and community partners serving lunch this summer:
- Abel, Manatee, Daughtrey, Kinnan, Oneco, Orange Ridge, Palmetto, Palm View, Prine, Samoset, Witt and Bayshore elementary schools;
- Harllee, Johnson, Nolan, Palmetto, Sugg and Lincoln middle schools; and
- Bayshore, Lakewood Ranch and Braden River, Southeast high schools.
13th Ave Community Center, Anna Gayle Center, Desoto Boys & Girls Club, East Bradenton Just 4 Girls Academy, Faulkner Farms, G.T. Bray Park, i-9 Sports Camp@ Imagine Charter, Increasing Joy Ministries, John Marble Park, Just for Girls-Palmetto, Kelly Brown Resource Center, Manatee Charter School, Myakka Community Center, PACE Center, Palmetto Boys & Girls Club, Palmetto Youth Center, Pine Village, Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication, Rubonia Community Center, Tallevast Community Center, Visible Men's Academy, We Care, West Bradenton Just 4 Girls and YMCA West.
Bus times: (approximate)
- Mobile Feeding Bus No. 1: Lincoln Park (1-2 p.m.); Turner Chapel (noon-12:30 p.m.); and Palmetto High (11-11:30 a.m.)
- Mobile Feeding No. 2: Bradenton Village (11-11:30 a.m.); Southeast High (noon-12:30 p.m.); and Aquatic Center (1-2 p.m.)