Summer meal program returning for all youth

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM —Marshalltown High School food service employee Jamie Wilson prepares a container of ready-to-go snacks for the students during Thursday lunch. Such food will be available to children who get meals from the district during the summer.

Marshalltown parents can rest assured their children will have the opportunity to consume nutritious and delicious meals this summer.

The Marshalltown Community School District will begin the annual Summer Meal Program on June 5 and will finish on Aug. 11. Director of Food Service Lynn Large said regardless of whether or not a child is enrolled in Marshalltown, they can receive free meals.

“It’s open for any child 18 years and younger,” she said. “They can come for two meal services we offer. They don’t have to be a Marshalltown student, or even live in Marshalltown. They can come from State Center, LeGrand. They can come eat with us if they want to.”

The first day for some meal sites is June 5, and others will open June 12. The closing dates for the sites are also not all the same. Some will close July 7 and others Aug. 11.

“The sites stagger as they open, and stagger as they close,” she said.

The reason behind some locations closing earlier in the program is due to summer school, Large said. However, sites not owned by the district – the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Marshalltown YMCA, and the Marshalltown Public Library – meals will be offered through the entirety of the program.

“We try to be at the locations we know our kids are going to be,” she said.

Large said meals already popular with children will be served, such as hot dogs with seasoned potato wedges, walking tacos or macaroni and cheese. Each lunch will feature an entree, a vegetable side, fruit and milk.

“We try, in the summer, to pick the things we know kids like, and we stick to that,” she said. “Occasionally we might rotate in something different, and try new recipes during the summer. That gives us feedback from a smaller group of kids.”

The annual program is only for youth. Large stressed if parents accompany their children to the meal locations, they should not eat any of the food from the child’s plate. She is expecting 500 meals to be served daily.

“We saw a peak of summer meals during COVID,” she said. “And we’ve been holding steady. It seems to be our magic number.”

The goal is to feed all of the youth who show up for the meals, and Large is confident the district will have enough. If a site happens to start running low on meals, she said the district production site will quickly deliver more.

Unlike during the COVID-19 pandemic when children could grab a sack lunch to go, Large said the meals this summer must be consumed onsite. It is a requirement of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is in charge of the federally-funded program nationwide. The onsite requirement was waived during the pandemic, which is why Large believes the program was so popular then.

Large said in order for a district to qualify for the national program, there has to be documented financial need. The USDA will reimburse the district for the meals provided.

“So we can operate anywhere we want to in town,” she said. “There is a low-income population throughout the community. That is what allows us to participate in the Summer Meal Program. So that is why not every school district qualifies.”

Large believes Marshalltown is on the larger side when it comes to the Summer Meal Program.

“It depends on the size of the district,” she said. “We’re the only school district in this area that offers summer feeding that I know of.”


Contact Lana Bradstream at (641) 753-6611 ext. 210 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.


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