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FSSD serves up nutrition all summer long no charge

Rebecca Lounsberry, summer feeding coordinator, and Marilyn Ryan, child nutrition supervisor, provided about 26,000 meals at no charge to the recipients last year through FSSD’s Summer Food Service Program.
Photo by Kerri Bartlett.

Marilyn Ryan has long been concerned that some children of the Franklin Special School District may go hungry during the summer months. And her concerns are well founded. Ryan, a child nutrition supervisor for the eight elementary and middle schools that comprise FSSD, knows all too well that more than 1,500 children receive school lunches for free or at reduced prices. For these kids – more than 40 percent of the school system’s population – daily access to nutritious food may not otherwise be guaranteed.

About four years ago, a mother who was struggling financially asked Ryan if she might be able to provide breakfast to her neighborhood during the summer.

“I said – yes – and thought, of course we can,” Ryan said.

Ever since, FSSD has provided free and healthful breakfasts and lunches to children all summer long as part of the Summer Food Service Program for four consecutive years – come one, come all, no proof of need required. Hot meals are served in some of the schools’ cafeterias, and nutritious bag lunches are distributed in neighborhoods and community organizations where children gather during the summer.

“We will feed children 48 days this summer,” Ryan said.

So far this summer, Ryan and her summer staff have served about 3,300 meals. Kids eat free, adults for $3.

FSSD partners with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the program.

With Williamson County being the wealthiest in the state, some might find it surprising that 40 percent of FSSD students qualify to receive free or reduced lunch from the federal government – 14 years ago about 20 percent were eligible.

Ryan and her staff realized that summertime could mean a time of food uncertainty for some, particularly without the food provided Monday through Friday during the academic year.

“If it’s an issue during the school year, then it’s an issue during the summer,” Ryan said.

Cafeteria Manager Rebecca Lounsberry builds a relationship with students going through the line everyday during the school year, and becomes familiar with their food needs as well as their eating habits.

“I worry about whose not eating during the summer,” she said. “I feel relieved that the kids I know are being taken care of and that they are getting the nutrition that they need.”

Lounsberry also worries about the younger brothers and sisters, toddlers, who come through the lines during the summer, but won’t be fed through the school year.

“I wonder where they are going to get their meals August through May,” she said.

Lounsberry said that children have adapted well to the delivery schedule this summer. “Every day when I drive up [in a borrowed FSSD technology truck], children are sitting on the porch under a tree waiting for me,” she said.

The program’s goal is to ensure any child who needs breakfast or lunch receives it, so there are absolutely no forms to fill out or qualifications to be met. Any person under the age of 18 is eligible to receive a meal. Adults may purchase a meal for $3.

“The best part of my job is being able to offer healthy meals to kids who might not otherwise have it,” Ryan said.

Community partners receiving food service from the FSSD Summer Food Service Program include the FSSD Morning and Afternoon Care (MAC) program, FSSD WeeMAC, The Franklin/Williamson County Boys & Girls Club, Franklin Housing Authority, My Friend’s House, The Gentry Foundation, FSSD Story Bus, Williamson County Parks & Recreation at Academy Park, Franklin Estates Mobile Home Park, FSSD Young Scholars at Liberty Elementary and Senior Scholars at Poplar Grove.

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Posted on: 6/20/2013


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