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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2013

Contact:   

Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Billings Public Schools kick off summer meals program for kids

Free summer meals served at 8 sites across Billings

Billings Mayor Tom Hanel, Billings Public Schools officials including Superintendent Terry Bouck, and Homeless Liaison Susan Runkle will join a diverse group of partners to kick off the free summer meals program at the Summer Food Service Program Kick-Off Wednesday, June 19 at 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Central Park.

Guest speaker remarks will take place from 11:30 a.m. to noon. The event also will feature Zumbatomic, face painting, bean bag toss, a wishing pond, and information about fun nutritional activities at Summer Feeding sites in Billings this summer.

Montana Office of Public Instruction, in partnership with Billings Public Schools, Montana No Kid Hungry, Montana Food Bank Network and Share Our Strength® are working to connect more area kids and teens to free summer meals programs by raising awareness about the program and making it easier for families to get to a summer meals site.

"Our goal is to exceed the 27,036 lunches served to children in the summer of 2012,” said Steve Harris Food Service Department Manager of Billings Public Schools. “We’re working hard to get these kids to the table. We are confident that with our partners, we can serve significantly more children than last summer. "

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers free summer meals to kids across Billings similar to school lunch and breakfast programs, except meals are free to all kids ages 18 and younger who come to a summer meals site registered through the USDA.

Billings has eight total sites including Central Park, South Park, Gorham Park, Pioneer Park, Crow Arrowhead Park and Castle Rock Park where lunch is served from noon to 1 p.m. In addition, North Park serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Boy’s & Girl’s Club serves lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

The No Kid Hungry Center for Best Practices reports that in Montana only 17 percent of children who receive a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year participated in free summer meal programs currently.

Lack of awareness about the program, stigma, and getting kids to a site that is near them and parents trust are just a few of the barriers families face, according to recent focus groups conducted by Share Our Strength.

“Summer meals programs are more important than ever before as families are struggling to make ends meet,” said Montana No Kid Hungry Manager Lisa Lee. “Families also face the stress of providing safe, supervised and affordable places for kids and teens to socialize, play and continue to learn during the summer.”

Many summer meals sites, which are registered with the USDA, offer fun learning and recreational activities so kids and teens can eat a healthy meal while staying active and hanging out with friends. Program details are:

  • Meals are FREE to children and teens ages 18 and younger who come to a summer meals site. Just show up, there’s no paperwork! 
    • Food served follows USDA nutrition guidelines and is paid for by the USDA.
    • Summer meals sites are at schools, churches, community centers and other places that are safe for kids and teens to go to.
    • Many sites offer educational and recreational activities that kids of all ages can participate in so they can eat, hang out with friends and take part in activities offered.
    • Parents don’t need to apply to the program to get a free summer meal for their kids. They can just bring their child to a summer meals site in their community.

Summertime should be a stress-free time for parents and kids, full of food, friends and fun. Free summer meals can help. Families can learn more or find a site near them by going to www.mfbn.org/summerfoodmt or call 1-800-809-4752 or they can text “Lunch” to 877-877 to find a site near them.

WHAT: Kick off for the free summer meals program.

WHO:  Billings Mayor Tom Hanel, Billings Public Schools officials including Superintendent Terry Bouck, and Homeless Liaison Susan Runkle.

WHERE: Central Park, 98 8th Street West
                                              
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Guest speaker remarks will take place from 11:30 a.m. to noon.

Page last updated 06/06/2013