Posted at: 06/24/2014 6:59 PM
By: Dan Conradt
It might surprise you, but in the middle of summer vacation one of the most popular gathering spots for young people isn't the park or the swimming pool, it's the Austin High School cafeteria.
“It's a federally funded program that allows us to serve a free lunch to any student ages 1 to 18," said Austin School District Food Service Director Mary Weikum.
When the Austin School District started offering the free meal, it was driven by need and concern.
"Austin has around 60 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and we started worrying several years ago what happens in the summer when these kids are not getting that meal," Weikum explained. “It's not only an economic thing, we live in a society now where both parents work. Who is preparing the meal for the kids?"
Today, the program is open to everyone.
"We serve between 8 and 900 students a day," Weikum said. That number's a little bit inflated because summer school is on now. But by the end of summer "probably 30-thousand lunches.”
"It's very healthy and it's very tasty," 14-year-old Samuel Ehret told us before digging into his lunch.
“We do follow the national school lunch program,” Weikum said.
And Ehret knows the importance of eating right.
"Because it is very important to your immune system, and it helps you grow up. I just feel a bit better."
Last year, nearly 150 schools and organizations operated over 630 summer feeding sites around the state, and they served more than two million meals to children 18 and under.
Some of the programs like Austin's allow anyone over 18 to buy lunch.