Madison Central continues free summer meal program

GIOVANNI HERNANDEZ picks up several free lunches at midday Friday at a distribution site manned by Michele Hodges (left) and Stacy Hunsley. The Madison Central School District is operating a summer free lunch program for boys and girls ages 1 up to 18. Meals are distributed at five sites located throughout Madison. This summer marks the third year that Madison Central has provided the free lunch program.

The staff with Madison's public schools have continued to provide free sack lunches to children in the community after the school district's educational programs closed for the 2020 summer break.

Superintendent Joel Jorgenson announced on May 20 that the school district's summer lunch program would continue through the summer break at the usual drop-off sites and on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule. The sack lunches are handed out at the sites from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

At mid-April, Madison school teams started distributing two sack lunches on each distribution day to each young person. During Madison Central's summer lunch programs, the school district in committed to providing free midday meals to all children from age 1 up to age 18.

During the last two summers, the district's free lunch program was conducted at Madison Elementary School. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, Madison Central continued its free lunch program into this summer.

Mitchell Brooks, school district business manager, said the summer lunch program doesn't have an end date this year because this fall's school opening plans are uncertain due to the pandemic.

"Everything depends on how the start of the next school year goes," Brooks said.

The distribution points for the sack lunches remain at the south entrances of Madison Elementary School and Madison High School, near the swimming pool at Westside Park, east of the Madison Public Library, and in the parking lot at Dakotaland Federal Credit Union in south Madison.

Brooks said the organizers may need to adjust the school drop-off sites to the north sides of the school buildings at some point this summer due to maintenance work on the parking lots.

Brooks added that the food-service staff may serve a limited number of hot meals at the MHS site during certain distribution days. For all of the meals, Brooks said Madison Central has to provide a balanced selection of vegetables, grains, protein, milk and other food items.

The organizers ask that the boys and girls take their sack lunches away from the distribution sites to eat the food and that the diners dispose of any trash properly.

Brooks said the school district will receive funding reimbursement from the federal government for conducting the summer meal program.