NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- Pasco County Schools is expanding its Summer Food Service program from 87 sites to 100.
- Pasco Summer Food Service program
- Summer lunch kick off parties June 8, 14
- Participating sites and more information on the program: http://summerfoodpasco.net/
"All these members of the community are starting to take advantage of the program, and it made us realize we need to expand this because people don’t have the ability to drive to some locations," said the program's coordinator, Megan Sexton.
Sexton said the nationwide program meets just about 17 percent of the need. Pasco's does slightly better, but the district got an idea of just what kind of need exists last year. Following its first-ever marketing push for summer meals, Sexton said participation was way up. One site went from serving 200 meals the previous summer to serving 5,000 last year.
"There’s no questions asked," said Sexton. "All they have to do is show up at a site. There's no enrollment. There's nothing other than come in, sit down, and get a meal."
Rachelle Wright is one of the parents who first heard about the program last year. Her son, Lucas, attends Dr. Mary Giella Elementary School and was about to enter first grade at the time.
"It helps out a lot, because in the morning time when I’m getting him ready to come here, he'll have a snack or two at the house, but he has a nutritious breakfast here that we can count on everyday," Wright said. "Then at lunchtime, if we can't afford anything during the week, it helps us out here."
- The program begins June 4 and will have special Summer Kick-Off events. They’re being held:
- Friday, June 8 – Crews Lake Park (16739 Crews Lake Drive, Spring Hill)
- Thursday, June 14 – Zephyr Park (5039 4th Street, Zephyrhills)
Fifty-eight percent of families in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch, according to Sexton. That amount jumps to 80 percent at Giella Elementary, where Principal George Papaemanuel said participation in the summer program isn’t as high as it could be.
"Not enough," he said. "We might have a dozen families, give or take, on given days. The only criteria we have is that they have to eat the food somewhere on our beautiful campus."
Papaemanuel said he welcomes the expansion.
"We also often hear that our school – you know, Shady Hills Road – our awesome community doesn’t live right on top of us. They have to get here," Papaemanuel said. "What’s amazing, in my opinion, is there’s going to be other locations right here along Shady Hills Rd."
Wright said her son will participate in the program again this year.
"It helps out at the end of the week because that saves on our budget a lot," she said. "Now that I know, I’m able to spread the word for other parents to let them know, have a little bit of help in the household."