Free meals offered through the summer

(From left) Nathaniel and Noah Allerding read together as part of the free lunch program at Evart Elementary School. The free meal program, similar to those offered in Big Rapids, Morley and Reed City, is open to all and free to any children age 18 and younger. (Pioneer photo/Meghan Gunther-Haas)

MECOSTA/OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Students are out of classes for the summer, signaling the beginning of another season in the area.

Through a federal meal program, children age 18 and younger can find a free lunch in multiple places throughout Mecosta and Osceola counties, including at Big Rapids Middle School, Evart Elementary School, Morley Stanwood Elementary School, Louise Kinney Pavilion in downtown Morley and Reed City Middle School.

Children do not need to be students of the local school district to receive a meal. In many of these locations, parents can enjoy lunch with their kids at a minimal price.

Big Rapids

Beginning today, Monday, June 11, and running through Aug. 17, the Big Rapids free summer meal program will offer lunch and activities from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the middle school, 500 N. Warren Ave. The program will be available Mondays through Fridays, but will be closed July 4 to 6 in observance of the holiday.

“The kids get a good meal. They get out of the house a bit, have fun and meet up with friends,” Barb Ward, Big Rapids Public School food service secretary, said about the program. “It’s social. The kids have a fun time here.”

Those who get a meal at the middle school also can participate in activity days, craft days, gym days and find a book in the reading room.

Evart

Another program offering a free lunch while encouraging reading will run from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays at Evart Elementary School, 515 N. Cedar St. The program began June 4 and will continue through Aug. 10, but will be closed July 4.

Along with a free meal, a few programs will offer activities and games throughout the summer. (Pioneer file photo)

“We wanted to link the reading program to the meal program to entice students to read. They can take AR (accelerated reader) tests and enter raffles,” said Aaron Wetters, Evart Elementary Title I teacher, noting parents can read to younger participants for their children to be entered into the raffles.

Evart Public Schools students also can check out books to take home, but those who are not in the EPS system will need to read books at the school. These students also can be entered to win raffle prizes. A small prize will be drawn each week and larger prize drawings will take place every three weeks.

On Fridays, families can take home a free book from one of the bins in the hallway.

New this year, families will find the lunch tables in the halls, instead of in the cafeteria.

“The tables are in the halls to entice kids into the library,” Wetters said. “We started this last week and each day, it’s getting bigger. I’m excited.”

Morley 

Two sites will be open for lunch for residents and visitors in Morley. Starting today, Monday, June 11, and continuing through Aug. 9, lunch will be served at Morley Stanwood Elementary School, 4808 Northland Drive, and at the mobile site across the street from Wee Bee’s Party Store, at Louise Kinney Pavilion.

Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the elementary and from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the mobile site. Lunches are available Mondays through Thursdays at each site, with the exception of July 4 and 5.

Reed City

While a free summer lunch isn’t new to the Reed City area, program participants will find lunch in a new location this year.

Due to construction at the elementary school, lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the middle school, 233 W. Church Ave. Lunches will be offered through the week beginning today, Monday, June 11, and continuing through Aug. 17, but will be closed the week of July 2 through 6.

“I know a lot of families rely on this program,” said Tricia Connell, Reed City Area Public Schools dining services director. “This is great to offer this to the community.”

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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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