For Galesburg District 205 summer school administrators, a new state mandate has gone much more smoothly than initially anticipated. In February, the Childhood Hunger Relief Act made a community cold lunch program mandatory at all Illinois school districts with summer school and a low-income population above 50 percent.


 

For Galesburg District 205 summer school administrators, a new state mandate has gone much more smoothly than initially anticipated.

In February, the Childhood Hunger Relief Act made a community cold lunch program mandatory at all Illinois school districts with summer school and a low-income population above 50 percent. Lunches were to be made available to all children age 18 and under for no charge.

District 205 summer school principal Matt LeClere, along with other district administrators, at first worried about all of the unknowns possible with the program.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised” with how smoothly the program has run, LeClere said. “We haven’t had the issues that I’ve anticipated. I’m glad that we haven’t had the problems, but it’s good to be prepared.

“We were pretty much prepared for anything.”

LeClere originally worried that putting children from such a wide age range — birth to age 18 — in one room may create problems. To help avoid any issues with students enrolled in the summer school, the principal decided to serve lunch to his students in their classrooms and leave Cooke Elementary School’s multi-purpose room for community members to dine.

He even hired two supervisors to help keep an eye on the room.

In the nearly two months that the program has been in effect, no problems have presented themselves during the 30-minute period.

Another problem, and one which really could not be prepared for, was how much food to prepare each day. Food service workers knew they would need to prepare approximately 200 lunches daily for the students, but how many extras to make was an unknown.

“The first week was probably the worst; you didn’t know how many (lunches) to make,” LeClere explained. “After about a week, we figured out how many we’re going to expect. It turned out pretty well.”

Once a week, Carver Center brings a bus full of children to Cooke for the free lunch, and its numbers have been steadily growing over the past weeks. In the beginning, approximately 50 students ate the lunch.

On Monday, there were 96 children of varied ages from Carver Center. Someone calls LeClere each week to let him know how many children they will bring so the workers can be prepared.

The rest of the week only a dozen or so extra lunches are served to the community. He thinks this may be due to the fact that children from the far reaches of the city don’t have the transportation necessary to take advantage of the program.

“We made a good faith effort,” LeClere said of the attempt to notify the public of the program. “There’s only so much we can do short of knocking on doors.

“It’s a great opportunity. At least we’re feeding the kids that need to be fed.”

Free lunches will still be served to children 18 and younger from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Thursday and July 21 to 24 at Cooke.

manstett@register-mail.com