For millions of children who count on free breakfasts and lunches during the school year, summertime can be a hungry time.
“They absolutely need those meals,” said Signe Anderson, senior child nutrition policy analyst for the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington-based nonprofit.
“About 20 million kids have access to meals through the school lunch program, but it’s really important to reach them when school is out,” she said.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Beginning Wednesday, 44 school cafeterias and other sites around Wichita will offer free breakfasts, lunches or afternoon snacks as part of Kid Power Cafe, the annual summer food service program. The program is run by the Wichita school district and is paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That’s more sites in Wichita than last year. And state officials say they expect more sites statewide, as advocates for hungry families focus their efforts on feeding more kids over the summer.
“We do anticipate being up,” said Peggy McAdoo, assistant director of child nutrition and wellness for the Kansas Department of Education.
“We are frantically making final approvals, but it looks like we may be over 450 sites this year,” she said – nearly 100 more free-meal locations than last summer.
Wichita will kick off its summer food program with an event at Kelly Elementary, 3143 S. Millwood, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Kid Power, a green-suited superhero, will lead activities for kids and teens as they enjoy a free lunch at the school.
The program is open to all children younger than 18. No reservations are required, and there are no qualifying guidelines or paperwork to fill out. Just show up at any Kid Power Cafe location at the designated times to get a free meal or snack.
About three-fourths of the 51,000 students who attend Wichita schools are eligible to receive free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches.
Earlier this year, about 175 people gathered at the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita to brainstorm ways to raise awareness of summer meal programs and get more meals to more kids.
They were prompted in part by a dismal statistic: Fewer than 7 percent of Kansas children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch at public schools took advantage of summer meal programs, according to a report by the Food Research and Action Center.
Steve Coen, president of the Kansas Health Foundation, said he hopes the increased focus and funding – including a $600,000 grant from the foundation to Kansas Appleseed – will make a difference.
“We’ve worked really hard, especially in northwest Kansas, which was just a desert in terms of summer meal sites,” Coen said. “A lot of these (new) sites are people just joining together and volunteering to host. … They don’t have to be schools.”
This year the Kansas Food Bank signed on as a sponsor and will supply shelf-stable meals to 19 sites in rural communities, including many that have not had summer food service programs before.
“That’s huge,” said McAdoo, the state official.
Some sites are getting creative with their promotion and outreach efforts, she said.
In Liberal, Garden City and Topeka, summer-meal kickoffs will include the Body Venture exhibit, a walk-through display that promotes the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. Several public libraries in rural parts of the state have signed on to host meal programs, and some are planning to combine mobile book programs with food trucks.
Families planning road trips can even go online to find free meal programs along the way, McAdoo said. The website: www.nhc.fns.usda.gov/nhc/find-meals.
“Meals are available in a wider area then they’ve ever been before, and we urge people to check out what is available,” she said.
Kid Power Cafe locations
Starting Wednesday, free breakfasts, lunches and snacks will be offered to children and teens as part of the Kid Power Cafe summer food service program. Here are this year’s locations and meal times. The program is offered weekdays unless otherwise specified.
▪ Horace Mann Academy, 1243 N. Market: breakfast, 8-8:30 a.m.; lunch, noon-12:30 p.m.
▪ Interfaith Ministries, 902 N. Market: lunch, noon-1 p.m.
▪ YMCA Downtown Branch, 402 N. Market: lunch, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
▪ Black Elementary, 1045 High: breakfast, 8-8:30 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
▪ Dodge Elementary, 4801 W. Second St.: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, noon-12:30 p.m.
▪ Earhart Elementary, 4401 N. Arkansas: breakfast, 8-8:45 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
▪ Evergreen Recreation Center, 2700 N. Woodland: lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.; snack, 4-4:30 p.m.
▪ Levy Special Education Center, 400 N. Woodchuck: breakfast, 7:45-8:30 a.m.; lunch, 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Begins June 8; closed Fridays
▪ Orchard Recreation Center, 4808 W. Ninth St.: lunch, noon-12:45 p.m.; snack, 3:45-4:15 p.m.
▪ Peterson Elementary, 9710 W. Central: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-noon
▪ Woodland Elementary, 1705 Salina: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, noon-12:30 p.m.
▪ Boys & Girls Club, 2400 N. Opportunity Drive: breakfast, 8-9 a.m.; lunch, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Begins June 1
▪ Chisholm Trail Elementary, 6015 Independence: breakfast, 8:15-9:15 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
▪ College Hill United Methodist Church, 2930 E. First St.: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-noon
▪ Dellrose United Methodist Church, 1502 N. Dellrose: breakfast, 9-9:30 a.m.; lunch, noon-12:45 p.m.
▪ Edgemoor Recreation Center, 5815 E. Ninth St.: lunch, noon-12:30 p.m.; snack, 4-4:30 p.m.
▪ Holy Savior Catholic Academy, 4640 E. 15th St.: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Begins June 8
▪ Jackson Elementary, 2717 N. Woodlawn: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, 12:15-1 p.m.
▪ Little Early Childhood Center, 1613 Piatt: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, noon-12:45 p.m. Begins June 8; closed Fridays
▪ L’Ouverture Elementary, 1539 Ohio: breakfast, 8:45-9:15 a.m.; lunch, noon-1 p.m.
▪ Minneha Elementary, 701 N. Webb: breakfast, 8:30-9:30 a.m.; lunch, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
▪ Mueller Elementary, 2500 E. 18th St.: breakfast, 8-9 a.m.; lunch, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Begins June 1
▪ Price-Harris Elementary, 706 N. Armour: breakfast, 8-8:45 a.m.; lunch, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
▪ Spaght Elementary, 2316 E. 10th St.: lunch, noon-1 p.m.
▪ St. Mark Cathedral, 1018 N. Dellrose: lunch, noon-12:45 p.m.
▪ St. Mark United Methodist Church, 1525 N. Lorraine: breakfast, 8-8:45 a.m.; lunch, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Begins June 1
▪ Upper Room Church, 2036 N. Pennsylvania: lunch, noon-12:45 p.m.
▪ Woodard Recreation Center, 2750 E. 18th St.: snack, 4:15-4:45 p.m.
▪ Benton Elementary, 338 S. Woodchuck: breakfast, 8-8:30 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
▪ Cessna Elementary, 2101 W. 45th St. South: breakfast, 8:30-9:30 a.m.; lunch, noon-1 p.m.
▪ Enterprise Elementary, 3605 S. Gold: breakfast, 8-9 a.m.; lunch, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
▪ Franklin Elementary, 214 S. Elizabeth: breakfast, 8:30-9 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
▪ Kelly Liberal Arts Academy, 3143 S. Millwood: breakfast, 8-8:30 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-noon
▪ Woodman Elementary, 2500 Hiram: breakfast, 8-8:30 a.m.; lunch, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
▪ YMCA South Branch, 3405 S. Meridian: lunch, noon-1 p.m. Begins June 1
▪ Allen Elementary, 1881 S. Elpyco: breakfast, 8-9 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
▪ Boston Recreation Center, 6655 E. Zimmerly: lunch, noon-12:30 p.m.
▪ Boys & Girls Club - Oaklawn, 4900 S. Clifton: breakfast, 8-9 a.m.; lunch, noon-1 p.m. Begins June 1
▪ Caldwell Elementary, 1441 S. Edgemoor: breakfast, 8-8:30 a.m.; lunch, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Begins June 1; closed Fridays
▪ Colvin Elementary, 2820 S. Roosevelt: lunch, noon-12:30 p.m.; snack, 4-4:30 p.m.
▪ Griffith Elementary, 1802 S. Bluff: breakfast, 8:30-9:30 a.m.; lunch, noon-1 p.m.
▪ Linwood Elementary, 1654 S. Hydraulic: breakfast, 8-8:45 a.m.; lunch, noon-1 p.m.
▪ Linwood Recreation Center, 1901 S. Kansas: lunch, noon-12:45 p.m.; snack, 4-4:30 p.m.
▪ Seltzer Elementary, 11660 E. Lincoln: breakfast, 8-8:30 a.m.; lunch, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.