By JOHN McBRYDE
With the Seamless Summer Food Service program a little more than halfway through the season, volunteers have already prepared thousands and thousands of meals for breakfast and lunch within the city limits of Franklin.
“We have served 24,595 breakfasts and more than 27,000 lunches,” said Robbin Cross, Child Nutrition supervisor for the Franklin Special School District.
Now in its 10th consecutive year, the summer meals program seeks to bridge the summer hunger gap by providing free breakfast and/or lunch to kids 18 and under at community sites during the months of May, June and July. The FSSD does this through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“For many children, summer can mean many hungry days,” Susannah Gentry, FSSD communications specialist, said in a press release. “Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child’s need for good nutrition.”
Franklin’s school district, which is comprised of eight schools, is eligible to be a serving site based on its free and reduced lunch statistics, which are around 40% to 45%.
Johnson Elementary School serves as the open dining site, where it serves breakfast Monday through Friday from 8-8:30 a.m. and lunch from 12:15-12:45 p.m.
The program won’t be serving meals in the upcoming week since the school district is closed for the July 4 week, but will resume with regular hours July 8 and run through July 25.
“Anybody 18 and under can walk in off the street [to eat at Johnson Elementary], no questions asked,” Cross said. “No identification is needed, nothing. Just come in and eat.”
Adults may purchase breakfast for $2.25 and lunch for $3.50.
In addition to the open site at Johnson Elementary, youngsters can get meals at other locations.
Community partners and off-site serving locations include FSSD Summer Morning and Afternoon Care (MAC) and WeeMAC, Franklin/Williamson County Boys & Girls Club, Franklin Housing Authority, The Gentry Education Foundation, Williamson County Parks & Recreation at Academy Park, The PATH Project, Franklin Estates Mobile Home Park and Mid-Cumberland Head Start. Visitors to the FSSD’s Story Bus Plus program will also be offered a meal during its summer schedule.
A few volunteers will pack coolers full of lunches that will be delivered to children in certain neighborhoods, notably those in the area near Liberty Elementary School. Those coolers typically get emptied by the time the van’s two occupants run their course.
In some places such as the Natchez section of Franklin, however, gentrification has caused the number of meals to be lower.
“What we’re noticing is, we’re losing our free and reduced [lunch] population,” Cross said, explaining how longtime resident are moving away. “It’s a population that really needs it, but if you drive around Franklin, you’ll see the housing boom and we’re losing affordable housing. We are seeing a decrease in some of our street numbers.”
For more information on the Seamless Summer Food Service program, call 615-794-6624.