Summer Food Service Program starts up at Sandrock Elementary School
Sandrock, Boys & Girls Club of Craig offer meals throughout the summer
Craig — The Summer Food Service Program began at Sandrock Elementary School on Monday, and that means it’s now operating at two area sites: Sandrock Elementary and the Boys & Girls Club of Craig.
It’s a program that helps children find a free meal during the day, and it also might connect them with students they don’t ordinarily see.
“You can actually see someone from eighth grade with someone from second grade,” said Chad Davis, 11, as he finished up his meal on Monday at Sandrock.
The Summer Food Service Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, features lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Friday at Sandrock Elementary School through late August. At the Boys & Girls Club of Craig, lunch runs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each weekday, with a snack from 3:30 to 4 p.m.
The lunches are open to all families. Children through age 18 may eat for free, and adults pay $3.75 for a lunch.
The program is administered by the Colorado Department of Education, and Judy Baker, director of food services for the Moffat County School District, is coordinating the program locally.
Lona Hillewaert, who works for the Moffat County School District’s food service department, is preparing the meals at Sandrock Elementary for the third year this summer.
“We’ll have a main dish, a vegetable, a fruit and milk every day,” she said.
About 20 people came for Monday’s meal, and Hillewaert and her son, Trenton, have developed a strategy to get the word out to children who might be ready to eat when lunch time rolls around.
“Last year I had my son ride out to Sherwood Forest (near City Park) where all the kids ride their bikes and round up people to come over,” she said. It’s something she and Trenton plan to try this summer, as well.
Hillewaert noted some of the children’s favorite foods from past years, including pizza and Bosco sticks.
“They liked the green chili burritos that we’re serving today,” she said. “Nachos are the ultimate favorite.”
Hillewaert said children are reacting more favorably to vegetables than they once did.
“They’ve come a long way in the past couple of years,” she said. “The salad bars that we do during the school year are a huge success.”
Hillewaert’s son Trenton was among the students participating in the meal on Monday, and he and other students noted the relaxed atmosphere during the summer.
“You have more friends here, and you have family, and you can actually go play with them,” Trenton Hillewaert, 15, said.
Adrian Silva, 13, noted the importance of the program to families who might be hitting rough financial times.
“A lot of families don’t have much for the children to eat,” he said.
Adrian’s point is supported by research. Drawing from 2012-2014 statistics from the USDA, a report from Hunger Free Colorado says that “nearly one in seven Coloradans struggle(s) with hunger, facing time when there is not enough money to buy food.”
Adrian also observed the chance to socialize when families come to the meals.
That sort of interaction is something that Lona Hillewaert enjoys, as well — when she’s working during the school year at Craig Middle School or during the summer at Sandrock Elementary.
“(The students) will notice things,” she said with a laugh. “They ask where your glasses are, and they ask if you cut your hair. They talk — and they ask how your day is.”
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