Free food programs available to students throughout summer

The end of a school year marks the conclusion of group projects, hallway gossip, and Algebra 2. It also bids farewell to the school-day free and reduced meal plans that keep many students nourished throughout the school year. Through the efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction free summer food plans across Thurston County offer meals to youths during their three months of vacation.

OSPI has two summer feeding programs in place, the Simplified Summer Food Program, which is open to all sponsor types, and the Seamless Summer Option, which is sponsored exclusively by public and private schools. These programs serve lunch Monday through Friday at various elementary schools, youth centers and food banks in Thurston County and surrounding areas for students 18 years and younger.

The Olympia parks department is a sponsor under SSFP and hosts its free summer lunches at noon weekdays starting June 23 at Madison Elementary and Jefferson Middle schools. Organizers expect to feed 50 children a day at Madison and up to 120 children daily at Jefferson, said Luke Burns, recreation program specialist. Lunches for adults are available for $3.50.

This year, the Garden Raised Bounty program (GRuB) is donating locally grown fruits and vegetables to the program, Burns said. The hot lunch menu at Jefferson includes dishes like oven baked chicken and cheese quesadillas, while the sack lunches at Madison will include a variety of sandwiches – such as roast beef, turkey, tuna salad or “sunbutter and jelly jammers” - that come with fruit, vegetables and milk.

“It’s not your stereotypical cafeteria food,” Burns said. “Every year, we’re adding new things.”

After lunch at these two sites, the city will host its Summer Kids in Parks Program, known as SKIPP, for children ages 6-12. The free supervised program runs 12:30-3:15 p.m. weekdays at Madison Elementary and Sunrise Park. Activities include field games and arts and crafts as well as an additional snack served at 3:00 p.m.

The summer feeding programs are regularly updating, the most current information can be found by visiting www.parenthelp123.org, texting MEALS to 96859 or calling 1-888-436-6392. The following are the current summer food sites available in Thurston County, this list is updated three times a week during the summer.