BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A line stretched from the cafeteria door to the lunch room with youngsters taking advantage of the Fort Madison Community School District’s free summer lunch program.
But program coordinator Linda Martinez said she would like to see the program grow if, for nothing else, to make sure that children in Fort Madison get a healthy lunch during the summer at no cost.
“It’s a great program,” Martinez said Tuesday after serving about 50 meals to children in line. “We tried different lunches this year trying to have more things the kids like. Years before it was like tacos and those are just a nightmare mess. Every day they will have the main entree and at least one or two vegetables or one or two fruits. But there are always four items on the plate.”
The meals, again, are free to anyone under 18 years of age and anyone can take advantage of the program. Martinez said if they are from out of town coming to the pool, they can walk right over to the high school and get a free lunch. The meals also come with a choice of white or chocolate milk.
Martinez and her assistant, Tracy Glasscock, serves and prepares all the meals for program.
The Summer Lunch Program is served at the Fort Madison High School cafeteria from 11 a.m to 12:30 p.m. through Thursday this week. Beginning next week, lunches will be served from noon to 12:30 p.m. Kids under 18 eat for free. Lunches will be served through July 20th Monday through Thursday. No lunches are served Friday-Sunday and no lunches will be served the first week of July.
The program is federally funded and has been going on for years.
“Mostly it’s daycares, which is great, but it’s also sad because there are so many other children out there that could get a free meal.
Martinez said the program served 79 meals Monday in addition to delivered meals in the city.
“We also take sack lunches to HTC child care. And Richardson, for three weeks, will have a summer program that we’ll feed there. So about 70 there and 80 here.
Adults are also welcome to come eat at the school and can get the same meal and drink for $3.50.
“We’ve had in previous years a couple adults who came three times a day and paid for lunch and some would just come in and pay and eat with their children or grandchildren,” Martinez said.
“This is, like, the 15th year we’ve done this. It stays pretty much the same. It seems that no matter how much publicity you do, it just doesn’t grow a lot. The meals used to be served at the middle school, but when we moved it here we thought with the pool we would serve more people.”
Martinez said the district changed the hours this year to start at noon which coincides better with the city pool hours.