Take Charge Thursday: Serving up healthy meals for kids

School may be out for summer vacation, but lunch is still in session.

One of the many community resources available to help folks save money this summer is the South Bend Summer Lunch and Playground Program. It provides children with a free nutritious bagged meal at one of 40 locations throughout the city of South Bend.

"We're here once school's out, that doesn't mean that our children don't need a nutritious meal so we're out at the park sights providing them with a nutritious meal every day for lunch,” said Peg Howard, program facilitator.

Serving up bag lunches filled with turkey bologna sandwiches, salads and other healthy snacks, the program aims at making sure kids keep consuming healthy meals even when they’re not in school.

Any child between one and 18 is able to swing by and enjoy one of the lunches. Each location has a designated time to serve around the middle of the day; additional information about times can be found on the program’s website.

At Washington High School, the lunch program teamed up with South Bend Police’s Athletic League’s tennis camp. One of the tennis camp’s instructors, Ethan Turner, was a camper himself years ago. Turner says the combination of sports and healthy lunches is a great idea for the kids to socialize and have fun.

“It's definitely a good thing for kids, it teaches them responsibility, it keeps them occupied, out of the house, come out and socialize with other kids and have fun with each other," Turner added.

Program workers and volunteers say they feed a lot of the campers, but kids from nearby neighborhoods also stop by to enjoy a picnic lunch. One of the stipulations is that the lunch is not taken outside the park/camp area, and no child is allowed more than one bagged lunched.

Whether they’re there for free food or fun, the goal is that no child walks away hungry.

Howard says, "This program is a lot of work for a short period of time and just do it for the kids, we have hungry children in the community and we need to provide them with a healthy meal for the summer."

The free lunches started June 12 and will continue to be served until Aug. 8. For more information call 574-299-4765.

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