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NR School District’s free summer food program now underway

Children from throughout the New Richmond area participated in the first day of the Summer Food Service Program this summer on Tuesday, June 10, which takes place along side the school district’s two summer programs, Summer Stretch and Jumpstart. (Photo by Jordan Willi)

Save for a few weeks between June 10 and the beginning of school next fall, children 18 years of age and under who live in New Richmond have the opportunity to get free breakfast and lunch throughout the summer as part of the school district’s new Summer Food Service Program.

“We have the backpack program Monday through Friday during the school year, but then we send the kids home in June and now they have nothing,” said Maryjo Peirson, a sixthgrade teacher at the middle school. “That is where this idea to have some kind of extended backpack program or summer food program stemmed from. We looked at a lot of different ways to try and figure out how we could get a summer food program off the ground and get the fundraising we needed. But that is when Karen Brummer, our school nutritionist, made a call to DPI and was able to find a way for us to still bring the program to New Richmond.”

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides nutritious meals to children during the summer, when free and reduced-price school meals are typically unavailable. Free breakfast and lunch will be served at the New Richmond Middle School during the Summer Stretch program (June 10-27) as well as at both the middle school and Paperjack Elementary during the Jumpstart program (June 14-Aug. 14). Breakfast is served from 7:15-8:30 a.m. with lunch being served from 11:10 a.m.-noon. Enrollment in Summer Stretch or Jumpstart is not required to take part in the food program.

“I have thought about starting summer feeding again for several years,” Brummer said. “In previous years we provided a feebased summer meals program, but wanted to provide free meals since one of our elementary sites has more than 40 percent of students eligible for free/reducedprice meals. I contacted DPI in March to see what I needed to submit to hopefully provide free meals at that elementary site.”

Both the middle school and Paperjack Elementary qualified for the Summer Food Service Program. It has many community groups excited, including the Backpack Program, which has tried to find ways to address the lack of food for in need students throughout the summer months. Until now the district couldn’t find a way to fund such a project.

“Our school nutrition department will plan and prepare all meals following all state and federal food safety regulations,” Brummer said. “We qualify to sponsor free summer feeding based on Census block data. The Census dataset that qualifies the middle school and Paperjack as feeding sites was released in February 2013. I contacted Amy Kolano from the Department of Public Instruction in March to determine if we would be eligible for free summer feeding and then informed district administrators and building principals of our eligibility.”

The Summer Food Service Program has been a U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored feeding program since 1968, when it started as a pilot program. In 1975 it became a separate meal program. More than 2.28 million children participated at 39,000 sites in 2012.

“We’ve been aware of that gap nutritionally for some time now, but haven’t had a group that has attacked it yet,” said Lynnette McCarty, who has been involved with the Backpack Program for about seven months. “The whole thing is just awesome. This program just fills a tremendous gap during the summer for those families and especially for the kids who get backpacks.”

Not only are community groups throughout New Richmond excited about the food program, but District Administrator Jeff Moberg couldn’t be happier about the new program giving the students throughout the district the chance to get a good meal during the summer months.

“I think this is a really great thing for any child in need and is a really easy way for any child to get a high-quality meal,” Moberg said. “It is also great for the parents, because then they don’t have to worry about their kids getting a good meal while they are at work during the summer.

“Hopefully a lot of students will take part in the program, because nutrition plays a key role in a student’s health and wellbeing. It also allows them to function better while they are at school. It is a basic staple that every student should be able to have,” Moberg added.

According to Brummer, both the middle school and the Paperjack Elementary sites will be staffed by New Richmond food service workers who are excited to have the work through the summer months.

“We will have two to three staff members working at each site,” Brummer said. “The staff is looking forward to interacting with students and receiving a paycheck over the summer months. We were required to submit a menu to DPI and must keep daily production and food safety records, just as we do during the school year.”

The St. Croix County Salvation Army is another group that is excited to have the food program coming to New Richmond, both for the children who live in Salvation Army-run apartments and the new families who will use the relocated Grace Place shelter when it moves to New Richmond later this year.

“About half of our shelter has kids who would be able to get free lunches if they currently lived in the New Richmond area,” said Salvation Army Social Services Director Duana Bremer. “That will be a huge help to us because then we don’t need to worry about the nutrition that the children are getting for lunch during the summer. This program has a lot of people here really excited.”

According to Brummer, the Summer Food Service Program will follow a meal pattern that includes milk, a fruit, a grain and a protein each day for breakfast as well as milk, a fruit, a vegetable, a grain and a protein for lunch. All the summer menus will be posted on the school district’s website.

“The nice thing about the program is that it isn’t just for the low-income children, it is for everyone,” Peirson said. “Amery has had this program for three years and they had about 300 breakfasts and about 700 lunches this past summer. So it has just grown for them.”

In Moberg’s opinion, not only did Brummer do a wonderful job bringing the Summer Food Service Program to New Richmond, but she continues to create appetizing meals for the students in the district while also sticking to the everchanging state standards for school lunches.

“Karen Brummer does a really good job of sticking to the guidelines the state sets for school lunches while also making lunches the kids like and that are nutritious for them,” Moberg said. “She is very creative in the way she puts together the meals and dishes while also not sticking to the status quo of how things are done or made.”

Though the program will offer breakfast and lunch throughout the summer, there will be two gaps — June 30-July 7 and Aug. 18-29 — when food will not be offered.

“I think there is a pretty good need for something like this in our community,” Peirson said. “When I look at our backpack numbers or just at the kids in general here, I feel like it will be something the kids and parents take advantage of. More than that, I think it is a safe place for the kids to be during the summer when their parents are working. They can stop in and potentially at least somebody is checking in on them.”

Applications for free and reduced-price lunch can be submitted at any time through the school district and the district food services. The program starts up again on Sept. 1, with the Backpack program restarting at about Oct. 1.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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