School nutritionists fight summer hunger with free meals twice a day

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LOGAN ROGERSVILLE, Mo.– Children don’t stop going hungry when school lets out for Summer Vacation. In fact, if anything, that problem gets worse when those students facing hunger or food insecurity lose access to the only two guaranteed meals they typically receive.  

That’s what we’re here for. To just make sure that those kids who really need a meal are being offered that food at no charge.”

-Kim Keller, Springfield Public Schools

“I believe it’s a reality in a lot of communities,” Vickie Cantrell told Ozarks First reporters.  

Cantrell, the Food Services Director for the Logan Rogersville School District, says for the past five summers the district has been offering those two meals, breakfast, and lunch, to students who would normally go without.  

“We are glad that we’re doing something to possibly help with that,” she said. 

Through the school district’s summer food service program, kids 18 and younger are welcome to drop in and get a free hot meal every day up until August 1st. The school pays for the food it serves but it’s later reimbursed through the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.  

Those kids that show up don’t even have to be students in the Logan Rogersville school district.  

Adults are welcome too. And while their meals cost money, it’s always less than $5.  

Logan Rogersville isn’t the only school operating a summer meal program this year. Springfield Public Schools is set to launch theirs as well.  

“That’s what we’re here for. To just make sure that those kids who really need a meal are being offered that food at no charge,” Kim Keller, Springfield’s Nutrition Services Director echoed.  

For Keller and Cantrell, a major part of their jobs isn’t just lining up the summer for service program, it’s designing the menu for each day and making sure the items on those menus are actually benefiting these students.  

Keller and Cantrell say a lot of the breakfasts and lunches people will see this summer are the greatest hits from the school year.  

“For breakfast, we’ll have biscuits and gravy or pancake-on-a-sticks, cereal, breakfast bars,” Keller listed.  

Keller expects lunches to look like pizza and subs, as those tend to be popular choices for students.  

When we visited with Cantrell, students were eating Mandarin chicken with rice and vegetables.  

“Of course, we’ll serve the proverbial square pizza,” she said. “But we also do a lot of scratch. Scratch chicken and noodle, scratch chili, homemade cinnamon rolls. All of our rolls are homemade. All of our cookies are scratch.” 

It might sound like a high-end lunch experience requiring a lot of effort but these two say it’s the least they could do when it comes to keeping kids happy instead of hungry. 

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