Summer to bring free meals, enrichment to area kids

T-R FILE PHOTO - The nearly 600 students in Bobcat University this summer will have plenty of instruction and enrichment activities to look forward to.

Many students across Central Iowa may be looking forward to a few months of freedom from classes, but summer learning loss and hunger can be challenges for many children. Two programs work to address those needs.

“We usually have a really good showing at most of our centers, and I’d say on average we feed about 500 kids a day in the summer,” said Marshalltown Schools Food Service Director Lynn Large of the district’s Fuel Up for Summer Fun meals program.

That program will see breakfast and lunch provided free to kids ages 1-18 throughout the summer at various sites within the district. The free meals are also served to children outside the Marshalltown community.

Adults may also enjoy meals as part of the program, with lunch costing $3.75 and breakfast $2.00.

“We keep the menu pretty close to what’s offered in the school year,” Large said of the summer meals. “We try to pick things we know they’ll like.”

T-R FILE PHOTO - Marshalltown Schools Food Service Director Lynn Large says around 500 kids per day were fed last summer during the free meals program.

The lunches include a main dish, a fruit, a vegetable and milk. Large said popular foods include chicken sandwiches, potato wedges and apple slices.

The meals are served at each school building’s normal dining location, which is either at cafeteria or gymnasium.

“You’ll grab a tray and you’ll go down the line and there will be a staff member there to help,” Large said. “They can sit and have some time to maybe socialize with their friends and have a good lunch.”

A full list of dates and times for the summer meals can be found at https://www.marshalltown.k12.ia.us/parents/summer-food-information-2019/

Learning and enrichment

Another summer program to benefit hundreds of students returning this year is Bobcat University. The program has been in place for several years and grew from its original location at Rogers Elementary to all six elementary schools and, this year, Lenihan Intermediate School.

“We’ve also partnered with a long-term English language program with the district to add additional students as well,” said Clarissa Thompson of Mid-Iowa Community Action, who oversees Bobcat University.

Another addition this year will be three dedicated site coordinators that will provide enrichment at Anson, Woodbury and Rogers elementary schools. Their addition was made possible by a nationally-competitive $500,000 Full Service Community Schools grant.

“That grant is basically coordination of services to meet academic needs,” Thompson said.

Throughout the elementary schools and Lenihan, students’ days will be split evenly between learning and enrichment activities. The learning activities are meant to improve proficiency and curb summer learning loss.

The rest of the program is paid for locally through Marshalltown Schools, MICA, Marshalltown Area United Way, Community Foundation of Marshall County and more.

Thompson said about 75 Marshalltown Schools teachers and para educators will instruct the nearly 600 students set to participate in Bobcat Academy this summer.

The enrichment activities are done through many community partners and are meant to connect students with local opportunities and recreation.

“They are getting a fabulous experience this summer with amazing community partners,” Thompson said. “We’re doing swimming lessons, the Marshall County Conservation Board is doing a bunch of stuff with bird watching, yoga, nature watching and fishing.”

Other partner agencies include the Marshall County Historical Society, Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, Union Grove State Park, Iowa State University Extension, Rapha Reins Inc. Equine Assisted Learning, the Marshalltown Public Library, fire and police departments, among many others.

Thompson said the separate summer meals program offers Bobcat University students a chance to get a free, nutritious meal during much of the program’s run time.

Bobcat University will be split into two separate sessions this summer. The first will run June 17 to July 12 and the second will run July 22 to Aug. 16.