Free lunches for neighborhood kids: Rec centers, nonprofits teaming to combat student hunger in summer
Students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will find the Collinwood Recreation Center and 20 other city rec centers more than just places for fitness activities this summer. Starting Monday, June 18, the centers will be places girls and boys can go for free boxed lunches.
With hunger an issue for many Cleveland youth, the free lunches will fill a need, said Kim Johnson, who coordinates the Summer Food Service Program for the Cleveland Division of Recreation. For some of the youngsters, the boxed meals will be the only food they will eat each day.
Under the program, the Recreation Department received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as money from the State of Ohio, to pay for the meals, which are similar to the free meals all District students get during the academic year.
Johnson said the mission is to ensure no boy or girl goes unfed.
Under the program last summer, she said the Recreation Department served more than 85,000 meals, down from almost 100,000 it served in 2010.
“Not only do we offer meals at all the rec centers, but the Cleveland Public Library will have meals,” Johnson said. “We also have 26 playgrounds we’re staffing that we’ll be serving lunch as well.”
She predicted more than 100,000 meals will be served this summer, a total that doesn’t include meals nonprofit organizations like the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, the Cleveland Foodbank Inc. and Cleveland Catholic Diocese will provide for youth.
Overall, more than 150 sites around Northeast Ohio will be serving free lunches to boys and girls.
At the Glenville Recreation Center, Halloran Park Skating Rink, Lonnie Burten Recreation Center, Zelma Watson George Recreation Center and Ken Johnson Recreation Center, the summer program is providing free breakfasts between 9:30 a.m.-10 a.m.
To find additional locations for the free meals, go to: https://oh.cnpcares.com/summer/SfspFoodServByCnty.asp?DispName=Cuyahoga