Summer vacation for Pickerington Local School Districts students is in full swing, but there are only two weeks left for those in need of lunches over the break to take advantage of an annual nutrition-assistance program.

For the fifth consecutive year, the school district's food services department is offering free lunches to anyone 18 years old and younger through its June Summer Lunch Program.

The program, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers meals without charge from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every week day in June in the cafeteria at Tussing Elementary School, 7117 Tussing Road. The final day of the program is June 29.

District Food Services Supervisor Judy Riley said she anticipates the program will serve an average of about 110 people per day.

"It has been very successful," Riley said. "It is important.

"There is a need. In Ohio, nearly one in four children live in food insecure households."

Riley said the district continues to offer the June Summer Lunch Program because young people need nutrition and food assistance throughout the year, not just when classes are in session.

"During the school year, they can count on free and reduced- meals," she said.

"However, during the summer months, families struggle to serve nutritious meals with limited resources and without school meals to help."

In addition to being 18 or younger, the only program requirement is that meals be eaten on-site.

According to district officials, more than one in four Pickerington students meets federal guidelines for free and reduced-price meals during the school year.

Families of these students count on those meals to ensure children get at least one nutritious meal during the day, district officials said.

In addition to meals being served each weekday in June, the district's food services team even has special activity days planned during the month, including:

* Donato's Day each Monday.

* Columbus Zoo Day on June 18.

* Visits and educational activities by the Ohio State University Extension Office on Tuesdays.

* Pickerington Library days on Fridays.

* Visits (with food samples) by representatives from some of the food services department's vendors on various days during the month.

Pickerington High School Central senior Taylor Short is among those volunteering to help with the program.

"We need volunteer hours for National Honor Society, and I love being around kids," Short said.

"It was a win-win situation. It definitely makes you feel good that, instead of just sleeping or chilling at my house, that I'm out helping kids this summer. Obviously, this is important for kids," Short said.

"Food is the foundation for life, so it's important that they get what's good to help them."

Additional information about the program is available at pickerington.k12.oh.us.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate