Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poor Kids Need Meals in Summer Schools Urged to Help with Federal Program

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poor Kids Need Meals in Summer Schools Urged to Help with Federal Program

Article excerpt

Clay County schools provide free or reduced-price meals for

thousands of low-income children throughout the school year.

But during the summer months, when schools are vacant, many of

those same youngsters go without meals. And that's a problem

that a ministry outreach activist, a state bureaucrat and school

administrators are trying to solve.

The school district is being asked to serve as the sponsor of

the federally funded Summer Food Service Program, which helps

finance meals for needy kids at feeding sites throughout the

nation.

Making a pitch to the School Board Thursday were Linda

Standifer of Orange Park, executive director of Action

Ministries Plus, Inc., and Dale Kishbaugh, of the Florida

Department of Education's Food and Nutrition Management office.

"We'd like to have five sites in Orange Park, five in

Middleburg, five in Keystone Heights and five in Green Cove

[Springs]," Standifer said.

She said the school district wouldn't have to do anything

except be the sponsoring agency and provide upfront money for

food, which would be reimbursed by the federal government.

"We want to be a partner with them," she said. "We would do all

the book work, set up all the sites, train the site coordinators

. . ."

Action Ministries Plus, Inc., a mission of the Jacksonville

District of the United Methodist Church, sponsored five feeding

sites in Green Cove Springs last summer, Standifer said.

Private, non-profit organizations, however, are restricted by

federal rules to operating no more than five lunch sites,

whereas no such restrictions apply to local governmental

agencies, such as school boards.

In a county where roughly one in every four public school

students is eligible for free or reduced lunches, Standifer said

the need is much greater than her agency has the ability to meet

due to federal constraints.

To illustrate her point, she cites Florida Department of

Education records which listed 5,779 children eligible for free

or reduced lunch programs in Clay County schools in 1996-97.

The school with the highest number of eligible students was

Charles E. Bennett, where 610 students, or 57.8 percent of the

entire student body, qualified for the program.

Bennett was the only school in the county where more than half

of the student population was eligible for free or reduced

lunches. Two others came close, however: McRae Elementary with

199 students, or 44. …

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