|NEWS||Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Summer Meals Program for kids and teens kicks off Monday
Several agencies have partnered to raise awareness
Montana’s First Lady Lisa Bullock, Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Richard Opper, Helena Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kent Kultgen and Janet Walsh, wife of Lt. Gov. John Walsh, will join a diverse group of partners to kick off the free summer meals program at the Kids Feed ‘N’ Fun Kick Off Monday, June 10 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Park in Helena.
Guest speaker remarks will take place from 11:30 to noon. The event will also include a number of activities, including a dunk tank, water balloon sling shots, Zumba, a seed planting station, and the Helena Fire Department is bringing a fire truck for aerial viewing.
Montana Office of Public Instruction, in partnership with 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.
“For many kids, summertime means food, friends and fun,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper. “For families who count on school breakfast and lunch, however, the summer months can be stressful and family food budgets have to be stretched even further. During the summer without this program, kids can also lose out on several months of learning and physical activity that they would normally get at school.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers free summer meals to kids across Helena 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.
The sites in Helena are located at Memorial Park, with lunches available weekdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and in East Helena at Radley Elementary School with breakfast available from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and lunches available from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays.
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.
The program details are as follows:
- 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 find a site near them.
WHAT: Kick off for the free summer meals program.
WHO: Montana’s First Lady Lisa Bullock, Department of Public Health and Human Services
Director Richard Opper, Helena Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kent
Kultgen, and Janet Walsh, wife of Lt. Gov. John Walsh.
WHERE: Memorial Park, HelenaWHEN: 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Guest speaker remarks will take place from 11:30 to noon.