Program provides free food for kids throughout the summer

School may be out for most kids, but expenses are in for parents.

Months away from school mean parents who rely on free or reduced lunch during the school year suddenly have to provide one or two extra meals per day. The added cost can take a bite out of a family’s budget.

“That becomes a real financial burden on some families,” said Karen Sommers, from the United Way.

But, an Indiana program is making stretching a dollar a bit easier for families by serving up free food to children all summer long.

“It is actually federally funded,” Sommers said. “So, it comes from the Indiana Department of Education.”

Locations throughout northern Indiana are participating in the program. The only requirement is that the person receiving the free food in under the age of 18.

“There’s costs to all of this stuff that just keep going up and up and on and on for families,” said Dave Sisk, from the United Way. “The summer food program helps the bottom line and gets people to save more for other things.”

Packing locations like Penn High School assemble more than 700 lunches each day. And, coordinators tell Newscenter 16 that the demand is already up this year.

“People are trying to work, they may be holding down a low-paying job or a couple of low-paying jobs,” Sisk said. “They are still struggling to put food on the table.”

Some free lunch locations are in full swing. South Bend will kick things off next week.

For more information on the program, contact the United Way call center by dialing 211.

They can also help with tracking down low-cost or free summer activities for kids.

“There are all kinds of summer activity programs that are probably going on right in your backyard” Sisk said. “Summer camps, all kinds of projects at parks and activities that a lot of non-profits put on throughout the year -- a lot of times school is out but all of these activities are in for the summer time.”

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