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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Caring for two extra children this summer has put a financial strain on Corinne Frey's budget.
In addition to her 3-year-old daughter, Frey is also looking after her 10-year-old twin siblings who are visiting from Pennsylvania during their summer break.
"I've been going over our budget for feeding all three of them and I'm going, 'Oh man, it's about $100 extra every two weeks just to add in that lunch meal and an extra snack," Frey told Press-Gazette Media (http://gbpg.net/1vV6rUa). "That's a lot for us."
Frey said she was delighted to learn about the Summer Food Service Program, a daily free service that provides lunches to children up to age 18.
Recently, Frey took the three children to the Brown County Southwest Branch Library, just a short walk from her home. The children sat through a reading program inside the library before heading outside to receive a lunch that included soft pretzels, carrots, cranberry raisins, granola and milk.
"We're not low, low income, but that still affects our lives because it's less fun stuff we get to do, like taking them out to the zoo," said Frey, who added that she plans to take advantage of the free meals two to three times a week.
The program, which started in 1999, is designed to feed low-income children throughout the city during the summer months when they're not in school, said Kathy Walker, food director for the Green Bay Area School District. This year's program started June 16 in many area locations.
Meals are distributed at 71 locations across Green Bay — including schools, parks and community centers. Parents don't have to be present for a child to receive a meal and everyone is eligible for a meal during serving hours, Walker said.
"Without this program, so many of these kids wouldn't be eating healthy meals or eating at all," Walker said. "The more healthy meals they have, the healthier habits they're going to have in life."
According to Walker, three out of every five students in the Green Bay Area School District qualify for a free or reduced lunch during the school year. In May, an average of 7,308 free meals per day were served to students who qualify throughout the district.
"The poverty rate is just going up in this area," she said.
The Summer Food Service Program served 113,148 meals last summer and that number is expected to be higher this year, Walker said. More than 4,000 lunches were served through the summer program on Monday.
Becky Phillips is the coordinator for the Summer Food Service Program at the Southwest Branch Library. That location served 75 meals the first day, she said.
"The goal is to ensure that every child gets fed at least one healthy meal a day," Phillips said. "When school's not in session it's harder to ensure that."
Low income levels or limited parental supervision throughout the day are factors that influence access to nutritious meals during the summer, she said.
Most of the participating serving locations will run Monday through Friday until Aug. 15 except for July 4.
The meals are prepared the night before at the school district's food service center and delivered the next day in refrigerated trucks to the participating locations, Walker said. Many schools will also serve free breakfast and snacks throughout the summer for students attending summer classes.
"The kids in the Green Bay School District are really lucky to have such a great program," Walker said. "The school district and families have to work together."
Information from: Press-Gazette Media, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com
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