About 11:30 each morning, students start to arrive at Taylor Primary School, on foot and on bicycles, driven in cars by parents or baby sitters, or even by themselves, for those who have just finished a summer school class at Taylor High School.

They come for the free lunches, available to anybody 18 and younger, as part of the Indiana Department of Education’s summer meal program.

Kokomo-Center School Corp. has offered the summer meal program for several years, and this year Taylor also offers it. In Miami County, Peru Community Schools serves free lunches during the summer as well.

Beth Schave, Taylor food service manager, said she found out Taylor Primary School was eligible to serve as a site because more than 60 percent of its students received free or reduced cost meals during the school year.

The cafeteria opened June 2, with plans to offer lunches through the end of June, but Schave said with about 100 children eating at the school each day, the school board approved continuing the lunch program through Aug. 7. Lunch is available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

From July 27 to Aug. 7, the school will also offer free breakfast at 7:45 a.m. weekdays, to see if enough children participate to consider offering it next summer.

Schave said the school corporation is reimbursed for its costs by the state Department of Education.

She said there is no paperwork to fill out and no income guidelines to meet to have the lunch — it is open to any person 18 or younger, regardless of where he or she lives or his or her family income.

She said one regular attender is a 17-year-old girl from Western, who baby-sits for four children in the Taylor Primary neighborhood.

“She brings the kids over to eat and she gets to eat also, because she’s under 18. She’s feeding herself and four kids for nothing.”

The lunch will also be offered to children attending summer school, she said.

Schave said meals must meet federal nutritional guidelines, and do not include leftovers from the school year lunch program. She offers hot and cold meals, which so far have included sandwiches, chicken nuggets and ravioli.

She’s glad to offer the meals to the children.

“I feel like I’m reaching out to some kids who need it, and that’s great. This is a way to reach out and see these kids have some nutritional meals through the summer. This is not a program to make money. This is for the kids.”

Schave said she’s working on some coloring sheets about nutrition, and she’s put out brochures about the school corporation’s food pantry.

“The need is there, people need help,” she said, noting that she put brochures out last week and four people called during the weekend asking about receiving help from the pantry.

Taylor Primary School Principal Shannon Richards said, in addition to filling tummies, the program invites the community into the schools.

“It’s a nice outreach program to get people into the school, getting them connected and comfortable with coming into the school. They realize we’re working together to take care of their children.”

She likes that there is no income requirement.

“Even sometimes if you don’t meet the income requirements, that doesn’t mean you’re not in need ... I think in times of hardship it’s great we have meals available for children and families to help curb their expenses.”

• Danielle Rush is the Kokomo Tribune education reporter. She can be reached at (765) 454-8585 or danielle.rush@kokomotribune.com.

Where to eat

Here are some places free meals are available for students during the summer:

In Howard County:

The Kokomo-Center Schools and Taylor Community Schools offer free lunch to children 18 and younger. No residency requirement.

• Carver Community Center, 1030 N. Purdum St.: Lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays through July 17, except July 4.

• Garden Square Apartments, 800 E. Hoffer St.: Lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays through July 17, except July 4.

• Taylor Primary School, 5500 Wea Drive: Lunch offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays through Aug. 7. Breakfast will be offered at 7:45 a.m. from July 27 to Aug. 7.

In Miami County:

The free meal program is offered to school-aged children who live in Miami County, through Aug. 13. Menus are available at www.peru.k12.in.us. The program is administered by the Peru Community Schools.

• Blair Pointe Upper Elementary School, 300 Blair Pike: Breakfast and lunch offered during summer school, through Tuesday. 7:30 to 8 a.m. breakfast, noon to 12:30 p.m. lunch.

• Peru High School, 401 N. Broadway: Breakfast and lunch offered during summer school, through Tuesday. 7:30 to 8 a.m. breakfast, noon to 12:30 p.m. lunch.

• YMCA, 34 E. Sixth St.: Breakfast and lunch offered on weekdays. 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. breakfast, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. lunch.

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