Lunch program

In this June 15 file photo, Hannah Pemberton, from left, Kadin Pemberton and Chantal Hosin make tamali pies during a cooking class during West Side School’s lunch program.

Activity at the summer food program hosted by Effingham Unit 40 for the last four years indicates there is a need for the hot nutritious lunches the program provides free of charge to school-age youngsters on weekdays throughout the summer.

Superintendent Dan Clasby said the program fed an average of 55 children a day at West Side School in Effingham for most of the summer, but that number fell to an average of 51 students a day in the last three weeks of the program.

Although those numbers may not be huge for this size of community, it does send a strong message of need, said Clasby.

The program is an extension of the free-and-reduced-lunch program offered during the school year to make sure children are fed at least one nutritious lunch a day. The school district is reimbursed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for each meal, but the government funding doesn’t cover all the costs associated with the program.

“It is our intent to run the program next year, but in order to do so we will have to have sponsors” said Clasby.

In order to provide the lunches, two people are employed to cook and serve the meals. Although the federal program reimburses the meal cost, it does not cover the cost of the employees.

Clasby said he is hoping to find sponsors who will cover those extra expenses so the youngsters can continue to find a good hot meal if needed during the summer.

Unit 40 offered more than just a free lunch during the program. Daily programs, thanks to some help from other organizations, were offered at the school as well, including activities provided by Helen Matthes Library, Ballard Nature Center, Effingham Park District and Samuel Music Co. In addition, the University of Illinois Extension Effingham Center provided cooking lessons on specific days and, during other times, board games and other activities were provided.

Donna Riley-Gordon can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 129 or donna.riley-gordon@effinghamdailynews.com.

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