Hungry children in Reynoldsburg won't be turned away when the school doors close for the summer.
The district will serve breakfast and lunch for children daily on weekdays and will provide "weekend backpacks" at selected locations.
Food Service Director Connie Fatseas said this summer marks the fourth year the district has offered breakfast and lunch meals for children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
"We are committed to good nutrition for our kids," she said. "We offer universal free grab-and-go breakfasts to every child in our district during the school year, because hungry kids don't learn like nourished kids do."
Fatseas said meals will be served Monday through Friday at various Reynoldsburg sites from June 10 until Aug. 9.
Breakfast will be served from 8 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the east entrance to the Reynoldsburg High School Livingston campus, 6699 E. Livingston Ave.
A Summer Feeding School Bus will be visiting and serving meals at Hannah Ashton Middle School, the Reynoldsburg pool, Reynoldsburg branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library and in the Postwoods and Eastgreen neighborhoods.
Any child from 1 to 18 years old is welcome, but all meals must be eaten on site.
Fatseas began the program four years ago because she worried about students going hungry after the last day of school.
"I started thinking about the kids receiving meal assistance and I realized that parents could not pick up breakfast and lunch in the summer because we aren't there," she said. "So we started doing summer feeding at Herbert Mills. Since it is a high-need area, every child between 1 and 18 could be fed free."
By the second year of the summer feeding program, the district added mobile food sites -- taking hot meals to needy neighborhoods and apartment complexes or to the Reynoldsburg branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.
"This year, we will be feeding kids outside Reynoldsburg pool from 11:30 a.m. until it opens at noon," Fatseas said.
The program is also getting a boost this year from state dollars to provide "weekend backpacks" to the neediest areas, thanks to Gov. John Kasich's approval of an additional $1 million in the state budget for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.
Fatseas said the Mid-Ohio Foodbank gets some of those funds and will purchase meal packs and deliver them to Reynoldsburg for distribution at selected locations on Friday afternoons after the kids eat lunch.
"It is not really a backpack, but is six meals -- two breakfasts, two lunches and two suppers in a bag," she said. "These are light meals that also include shelf-stable milk. Last year, someone actually donated a real backpack for the last day of the program, so that kids had new backpacks to start school. The food bank is currently looking for funding for that piece."
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said the weekend backpacks will serve about 225 Reynoldsburg children over the summer, and close to 10,000 children all over Ohio.
"Each weekend backpack costs $9.32 for six meals and a 32-ounce shelf-stable milk," she said. "The $1-million dollar executive order is funding the food cost only. No administrative, transportation or labor costs are being funded.
"The 24 summer food services' sponsors and more than 200 summer food service program sites are donating their time, talent and staff labor resources to operate this program."
Hamler-Fugitt said 46 percent of children in Ohio are part of families poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
"Reynoldsburg is a district that is excellent with distinction," Fatseas said. "We in the food service department work hard at doing our part toward that achievement. We nurture kids' bodies so that learning becomes easier. We do believe that every child can excel. We don't want our kids not to excel because they are hungry."
Anyone with questions may call 614-501-1030.