During the school year, millions of children across the United States are provided with free or low-cost meals through the National School Lunch Program. The federally funded program operates in more than 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential childcare facilities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). With summer approaching, the question arises: What will these children do without the meals they are receiving at school everyday?
Jefferson County Pct. 4 Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred has answered this question by partnering with USDA to provide free meals to children when the school year comes to an end.
“What we have provided through this program is a nourishing meal, and we have extended that by having some professionals, school teachers, and agricultural groups to come in and provide our students with some stimulants to the brain,” Alfred said. “We feel that it keeps the kids well-rounded, active and engaged in the summer doing positive things that will benefit them.”
This summer, meals will be served Monday through Friday for one hour starting at 11:30 a.m. at Jefferson County Pct. 4 Service Center at 7780 Boyt Road in Beaumont. Any child under 18 may participate. There are no income requirements and registration is not necessary to take part in the program, which begins June 10 and lasts until Aug. 9.
Precinct 4 includes parts of Beaumont, Hardin Jefferson and Hampshire Fannett school districts, said Angela Seals, site coordinator for the Summer Food Service Program. Seals said that the program, which was started in Precinct 4 in 2010, is crucial for children in the precinct because they live in a rural area and might not have the same opportunities as kids from the urban communities in Beaumont.
“We started it in a rural area so that we could target those children who are not getting the proper nutrition during the summer months,” she said. “The kids out here don’t have access to summer programs at the elementary schools and city parks like the kids in the city do.”
In addition to the meal, Seals said there would also be entertainment after the 11:30 a.m. lunch.
“We don’t just do the meal,” she said. “We have an activity for them daily called enrichment. We’ve had Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department bring the narcotic dogs. They’ve brought the helicopter. We have an activity for them every day. For Father’s Day we do a Father’s Day craft. We do a Fourth of July craft. It’s not just eating. It’s actually fun for them.”
Alfred said that he encourages parents to bring their children to the Service Center for lunch and activities this summer.
“It will be a benefit to their kids and to their future,” he said.
The Precinct 4 Service Center was formerly Fanshire Elementary School and was converted to meet the needs of the community, according to Jefferson County’s website. “Since its restoration, Commissioner Alfred has converted cold water to hot water systems, installing a shower system for employees and plans are currently underway for the implementation of a Wellness Center to improve employee health care issues,” the website states.
For more information on the national Summer Food Service Program, visit www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer  or call (409) 434-5400.