Austintown School District has a new summer lunch program that kicked off on Monday. The program offers a morning breakfast and midday lunch to any Austintown youth ages one to 18.
"In essence, this is a very big program," said Tascin Brooks, Austintown Food Service Department director. "It will have our cafeterias running year round at AMS and Woodside Elementary."
The new program has a preset budget of around $90,000. Brooks said the district will be reimbursed through the USDA with the only cost to the district coming from the staff needed to make it work.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
AMS cafeteria volunteer Sydney Livermoore serves up the fruit for the new summer lunch program. She helped out in the kitchen to gain her needed volunteer hours towards National Honor Society.
The idea behind the program is to provide kids in high poverty areas with a balanced meal throughout the summer months.
"We found that in keeping kids nutritionally fit, it improves their behavior and learning ability," Brooks said.
Austintown qualified through the U.S. Census Bureau numbers. On the elementary school side, Woodside was rated at 82.7 percent impoverished and Watson at 67.8. The other two elementary districts didn't make it. Lloyd came in at 41.1 percent and Lynn Kirk at 18.2. Each was based on the area the elementary school served.
On the middle school and high school level, the entire district was considered. Fitch came in with a 67.8 percent and AMS had the same, qualifying both for the program.
Since Watson, Fitch, and AMS are all on the same campus, the decision was made to run the summer lunch program out of AMS. Woodside's program is separate.
Brooks said because of the high percentage for the district and the two elementaries, the summer lunch program will be considered an open site program for all children. The breakfast, served from 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. at AMS and from 8:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. at Woodside are free to any Austintown child regardless of their family income or situation. The same goes for the lunch, which will run from noon to 1:15 p.m. at AMS and 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at Woodside.
"The only stipulation is that a child must show up during that time frame," Brooks said. "They can't stroll in five minutes after the the ending time."
She said the AMS cafeteria can also cater to students in sports, band camp, or other activities that take place on the campus.
For the Woodside area, the free breakfast and lunch will be a big plus for a lot of parents.
"Woodside is in a high poverty area," Brooks said. "A lot of parents there don't know where their next meal is coming from."
She said at least with this new program, those parents can be assured their children are eating right throughout the summer months.
"If we can keep them fit, they'll do much better [in school] when they return in the fall," Brooks said.
The free summer lunch program began on Monday and will continue through Aug. 16. The program is also open to persons over the age of 18 who are determined by a state or local public education agency to be mentally or physically disabled.
For questions on the program, contact the Food Service Office at 330-797-3900, ext. 2033.