As students in Whitehall officially welcome summer break this week, district and community leaders are making sure no one goes hungry.
Nearly eight of 10 children in Whitehall qualified for a free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-14 school year. That's 10 percent above the national average.
Thanks to a new federal program last year, a free hot lunch was offered to all students in Whitehall's six schools, including the C. Ray Williams Early Childhood Development Center.
The program will continue to serve lunch throughout the summer at several Whitehall locations.
Free lunches will be available at the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Whitehall-Yearling High School, Rosemore Middle School and Whitehall United Methodist Church.
Of families who participate in free or low-cost school meal programs nationwide, 43 percent sometimes don't have enough food over the summer, according to nokidhungry.org, the website of the nonprofit Share Our Strength organization.
"The decision to provide lunch throughout the summer is based on need," said Brian Hamler, Whitehall City School District superintendent. "Our free and reduced lunch count would indicate there is a need to provide lunches for the kids in the community during the summer months.
"We are able to take advantage of grant opportunities to assure our children have access to good nutritious lunches without any significant impact to our general fund."
The school district will offer free lunches at both the high school, 675 S. Yearling Road, and middle school, 4800 Langley Ave., throughout its summer-school program, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. weekdays, June 16 through Aug. 15, with no lunch served July 3 and 4 due to Independence Day.
The district's free lunch program is open to all youngsters in the area 18 and younger regardless of whether they are attending summer school.
Free lunches also will be offered throughout the summer at the Whitehall branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 4371 E. Broad St., in conjunction with its summer reading program. Lunch will be offered to children ages 1-18 from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 15. A limit of 50 lunches will be served due to space limitations.
Finally, the Whitehall United Methodist Church, at the corner of Bernhard and Etna roads, will fill in the end-of-summer gap by serving free lunch Aug. 18-22 to adults and children.
Students in Whitehall return to class Monday, Aug. 25.
The city of Whitehall will not offer a summer lunch program this year for children. Gail Martineau, the city's community affairs coordinator, said the city opted out of offering the free program this year because the school district will serve lunch at Rosemore Middle School, right next door to the city's former lunch spot at John Bishop Park.