Through the end of June, the Pickerington Local School District again is offering free lunches to those in need.

For the fourth consecutive year, the school district's food-services department is offering a summer food program Mondays through Fridays.

This year, the program has been moved away from its usual venue of Tussing Elementary School because of a paving project on the school's parking lot.

Instead, the program is being held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays by Harmon Middle School, 12410 Harmon Road.

All children who visit the school in need of a lunch during those times will receive one. Special events throughout the week also are scheduled, such as Donatos Pizza Days each Monday, nutrition and fitness activities on Tuesdays and Library Day every Friday.

"There are no residency requirements," said Judy Riley, the district's food-services supervisor. "We believe that every child should have access to a healthy, nutritious meal, and this program allows us to continue meeting that need in our community during the summer months.

"This aligns with the purpose and goals of the food-services department and the district. This program also helps some parents who work during the summer and may not be able to be home to provide a meal every day."

A link on the district's website, pickerington.k12.oh.us, provides the program's daily lunch menu and special themes for designated days.

The program is funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

"Ultimately, there is no cost to the district," said David Ball, the district's spokesman. "We are reimbursed by the federal government for each meal served.

"This reimbursement covers the cost of food and staffing," Ball said. "We also have student and adult volunteers who assist with this program."

According to the district, 2,892 meals -- or about 131 children per day -- were served last summer during the 22 days of the program.

Riley said the ability to provide at least one meal a day to students helps ensure no children go hungry over the summer.

It also allows for learning and social opportunities for students to keep their brains engaged, she said.

"When school lets out, learning does not end," Riley said. "Neither does the need for good nutrition."

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