All kids age 1 to 18 can come for breakfast and lunch this summer at the elementary school

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Kids can chow down at the summer meals program at Edwards Elementary, which is open to all children age 1-18.

In June, July and August, free meals will be available at Edwards Elementary School as part of a federally-funded summer feeding program. Locally, the program has multiple locations and this site was chosen based on a criteria of having 50 percent or more of its students on free and reduced lunch.

Cheri Meeker, nutrition services supervisor at the school district, said sites are added based on school or census data. In this case, the school provided data indicating that Edwards qualifies. Through the program, the federal government reimburses the school district for every meal served.

"We've been flexible trying to figure out where the need is in town and trying to provide meals there," Meeker said. "The sites have to be pre-approved through the state and fall under a certain economic level."

There is no application or payment required to participate in the meal program. Kids 1-18 just need to show up and they will be fed breakfast and/or lunch. Breakfast runs from 8-8:30 a.m. and lunch goes from 11 a.m. to noon. Meals are served Monday through Friday from now until Aug. 23 with the exception of the July 4 holiday.

The district makes an effort to mix up the meals, Meeker said, with the menu including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, burgers, corn dogs, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pizza and more throughout the summer. Fruits, veggies and milk are also staples of the menus.

Mixing it up is crucial to keep kids participating in the program, Meeker said

"I don't want a cold sandwich every day for lunch and I don't figure the kids do, either," she said. "We take hot meals out there as well. It's all part of an effort to keep kids interested and keep them coming back."

Meeker has been in the position at the district for more than a decade. Her driving force, she said, is a desire to feed kids and help out those in need.

Providing the "fuel kids need" is a rewarding job and one Meeker said she feels is essential for the community. Whether families can otherwise afford meals doesn't matter, she said, as long as the kids know the option of a free meal is in their neighborhood.

A couple years ago, Meeker said she was filling in for one of the cooks at Edwards during the summer feeding program and a local mom stopped by with her two young boys. The mother explained that their family didn't have any more money until the end of the week, and she thanked Meeker and the kitchen staff for providing essential meals for her kids.

"For me, it was one of those moments when I realized exactly why we do this," Meeker said. "There are some in our community who can't afford regular meals and knowing there's somebody who can provide that means the world to them."

Other summer lunch sites include Pool Park and Deskin Commons from 11 to 11:30 a.m., the Newberg Public Library from 11:45 to 12:15, and Ewing Young Historical Park from 12:30 to 12:45.

To find out more about the summer meals program, contact the school district's nutrition services at 503-554-5016.

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