picture of students eating lunch outside


Free summer meals served at Greenwood and Island City schools

By Trish Yerges

This summer there have been some major changes to the summer food program that supplies free meals to kids ages 1-18.   Community Connection of Northeast Oregon, who had facilitated the delivery of these meals since 2005, has officially handed the duties over to the La Grande School District. 

 Supervising the program now is the La Grande School District’s Food Service Manager, Lindsey Meinhard, who stepped into this office last December.

 “Community Connection has been serving the community for so long that it’s a great tradition here.  I know they will be missed, and they are big shoes to fill,” Meinhard said.  “We are all grateful for their many years of service to the community.”

 Once the baton was handed to the school district, they sprinted into action.  The school district conducted and finalized the hiring process to fill three cook positions for this summer.   The cooks were chosen from among the existing staff, making their transition to summer duties as seamless as possible.  Meinhard said they had plenty of interest in the summer cook positions.

 The cooks are responsible for preparing and distributing the sack meals from June 19 to August 11 between 11 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday.  Meals will not be served Monday, July 3rd or Tuesday July 4th, however, a larger bag with three days of meals will be provided on Friday, June 30th. Kids ages 1 to 18 will be served a meal without registration of any kind.  They do not have to be students of the school district to receive free meals. 

 Another big change this year involves the meal service sites.  In the past, meals were distributed at Riveria School, but that site has been discontinued.  Instead, Meinhard has arranged for two new sites for maximum service.  

 “Now we will be distributing meals at the park across the street from Greenwood Elementary School and at the park next to the Island City Elementary School,” Meinhard said.  “That’s really nice for the community because we’ll be able to serve a lot more kids from two sites.” 

 Along with this change, Meinhard received communication from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) on April 19 that their school district had been given a rural status, allowing them to operate non-congregate meal service this summer. 

 “They changed the rules a couple of weeks ago to make it so districts in rural areas can do non-congregate feeding,” she said. “We’re really going to be able to feed more kids this way than if it was congregate feeding arrangement.”

 This means that the kids don’t have to remain on location to eat their meal.  They can simply grab and go, if they want to eat their meal at home or they can opt to stay at the park and eat their meal.  

 Not only that, but Meinhard asked ODE if an additional breakfast meal would be allowed now that they have non-congregate feeding status.  The answer was “yes.”

 “So, this year we have a combination of cold lunches and breakfast meals for the next morning all in the same sack that we hand out to each child,” she said. 

 The breakfast meal will be like what kids are accustomed to getting at school, like breakfast rounds, a piece of fruit, milk or cheese or something like whole grain bagels with cream cheese, a blue berry muffin with string cheese---things kids can pop in the refrigerator until the following morning.

 Likewise, lunch meals will meet the child nutrition standards for school nutrition lunches, she said, so each lunch meal will have a grain component, a protein component, fruit, a vegetable, healthy treats and chocolate or white milk.  “So, it will be a complete meal,” she said.

 The cooks will personally hand out the sack meals and keep the required record of how many kids are served each day.  In Meinhard’s role as supervisor, she will be going back and forth between the two meal service sites daily to offer any assistance to the cooks.  

 The final surprise in the summer food program involves the fun, recreational things that will be available for the kids at the two parks.   

 “We applied for a startup grant which we received, so we’re going to have some bubbles, hoola hoops and other fun things for the kids to do at the park,” she said.

 The ODE Summer Food Program is designed to help children maintain a nutritious diet and help their families make their food dollars stretch during the summer months.  All children are welcome, regardless of socioeconomic status, so don’t forget to participate! The more students we feed, the better for our overall program. See you at lunch!