STAUNTON — Children learn and grow during the academic year, but learning and growing does not have to stall during summer months.
For the fourth summer, Staunton City Schools is providing meals for students with fresh, local food.
“It’s yummy,” said Justice Hunter, 7, a student at Bessie Weller Elementary School, at Shelburne Middle School for lunch Monday.
For Monday’s lunch, students enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs, chopped broccoli, black beans, milk and sliced apples.
“They are so excited about lunch,” said Kelly Cook, YMCA site director at Shelburne, who is also a third-grade teacher at Wilson Elementary School.
Amanda Warren, Staunton City Public Schools’ director of school food services, was at Shelburne Monday during lunch to offer children the chance to try heirloom carrots and watercrest, both locally grown and provided by Project Grows.
“We just encourage them to try and taste [new foods],” said Warren.
She added that the more local the produce, the more nutrient value is “intact” when the produce reaches the consumer, which, in this case is Staunton City students.
“The goal of the program is just to insure food access for children in the Staunton area,” Warren said of the food program.
Hopefully, the school system’s food program is able to bridge the gap during the summer for children on the free/reduced lunch meal program during the academic year, Warren said, but “also to reach out to the community and provide free, nutritious meals.”
Adults are encouraged to enjoy the program for $3 per adult per meal at Shelburne Middle School.
The food provided in the program is locally grown, and is reaching a large demographic during the summer growing season.
Warren said she recently attended a tasting, which included locally grown zucchini, squash and lettuce.
“[The summer food program] is growing every year. We’re happy to see the growth, and see the support from the community,” Warren said.
The hope is to reach everyone in the community with healthy food and how to enjoy healthy food.
Warren said that the program has seen a great amount of participation at a new site this year at Willow View Apartments in Staunton. On Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, 20 to 25 children come ready to eat lunch.
The summer food service program with Staunton City Schools is just a part of the summer program at the Staunton-Augusta YMCA.
“We serve 250 children across [five] sites,” said Ashley Cole, youth and family director for the Staunton-Augusta YMCA. “All of these children come to our summer camp.”
The YMCA has 55 paid staff members who help serve breakfast and lunch at Bessie Weller, T.C. McSwain and Arthur R. Jr. Ware elementary schools and Shelburne Middle School, as well as the Staunton-Augusta YMCA PK Summer Camp.
Cole said the program is “a great, great opportunity for kids, especially during the summer.”
The rest of the YMCA’s summer program includes a day camp for 300 children from Weyers Cave to Staunton at six sites. Children who participate engage in activities focused on character development and physical education weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through July 26.
Cole said that each week at the YMCA’s day camp has a theme. This week’s theme is science.
The day camp provides “a lot of summer care opportunities for the public.”
Staunton City Public Schools’ Summer Food Service Program was recently awarded a 2018 Gold Turnip the Beet Award from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Staunton City Schools’ Summer Food Service Program schedule is available at www.staunton.k12.va.us.
In the city of Waynesboro, students under age 18 also have access to breakfast and lunch for the second summer since the Summer School Feeding program was implemented by Tammy Coffey, Waynesboro Public Schools’ School Nutrition Supervisor.
“I plan on doing it from here on out,” said Coffey. “It has gone very well.”
Mondays through Thursdays through June, students are welcome to enjoy breakfast from 8:30 to 9 a.m. and lunch from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. at William Perry Elementary School, 840 King Ave., Waynesboro.
From July 8 to 18, breakfast will be served Mondays through Thursdays from 8:15 to 8:45 a.m. and lunch from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. at Wenonah Elementary School, 125 N. Bayard Ave., Waynesboro.
“I think it’s very important, because I know for students that may be the only meal they have — breakfast and lunch,” Coffey said.
She said she thinks the program is wonderful, and hopes the community sees from the program that Waynesboro Schools cares about students. Next year, Coffey hopes to allow adults access to the program as well.