A sack lunch and a small carton of milk go a long way for Michelle Maas’ three sons.
“She doesn’t always have food around the house, ’cause we eat a lot,” Maas’ oldest son, 14-year-old Kane, said Wednesday while waiting for his brother to finish his turkey-and-cheese wrap.
Every day this week, Maas and her sons have walked about a mile and a half from their home to Mount Tahoma High School, where her boys receive free lunches.
“Sometimes I don’t have lunch for them,” she said.
During the school year, she said she spends about 40 cents per daily lunch under the free and reduced program — and it adds up.
But during the summer months, the family gets more relief. School districts and nonprofit organizations throughout Pierce County offer free lunches to children 18 years old or younger at dozens of sites. Parents or adult guardians do not get a meal.
The summer lunches are part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, which reimburses school districts and nonprofits on a per-meal basis.
Paul Conger, a field assistant at Tacoma Public Schools Nutrition Services, said the program does not require students to show financial need, fill out an application or participate in summer school.
“They simply need to be there when we serve,” Conger said.
Linda Morris, a child nutritionist manager at Mount Tahoma, said many children go hungry in the summer, in part because the meal program isn’t widely known.
Conger said the program provides some children with the only meal they’ll have all day.
Statewide, the program served a daily average of 40,365 children at 825 sites last summer, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
List of meal sites is current as of June 16, and is subject to change. Contact sponsors for more information concerning hours, days and meals.
(Not every site listed offers meals on a daily basis. The schedule varies widely.)