Littleton Public Schools resumes free summer meal program

District likely to serve less as federal funds tighten

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Anyone 18 or younger can receive a free breakfast and lunch through Littleton Public Schools' summer meal program, which resumed June 1 and will offer food through July 28. Children do not have to be LPS students to receive a meal. 

Littleton High School will serve breakfast from 8 to 8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday until June 30. 

East Elementary School will serve breakfast from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m. and lunch from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday until July 28. 

Both sites will be closed June 20 and July 1 through July 5. 

The program, which is federally funded, saw immense demand during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Jessica Gould, district director for Nutrition Services, LPS served about 3,000 meals each day for the past two summers, up from about 400 before the pandemic began. 

While the program will continue, it is likely to serve far less this summer due to a lack of federal COVID aid, according to Gould, which helped the district expand its outreach during the last two years.

Gould, who also serves as chair of the Public Policy & Legislative Committee for the School Nutrition Association, had joined food advocates in Washington, D.C. in early March to urge lawmakers to continue COVID-era funding for the program. 

Those funds, however, were ultimately dropped from Congress' 2022 spending budget, much to the disappointment of Gould and other LPS staff.

Katie Kerkhoff, nutrition supervisor for LPS, said the need is as "great as it's ever been" as families struggle with rising costs. 

"Our numbers have still been just record high," Kerkhoff said. "I would hope it would open up the eyes of policymakers ... the awareness of how much need there still is."

A key prong of the program's ability to reach thousands has been through bus deliveries. But with tightened federal restrictions around where the meals can be served, Kerkhoff said the district has had to limit the two sites to where food insecurity is greatest. 

Anyone, however, can still come to the schools for food and does not need to live in the area.

Being able to provide free meals during the summer is "monumental" for children's health and learning ability, Kerkhoff said. For food insecure families, the school year is when their child may be getting the majority of their meals, making it all the more important that children continue to be fed when school is out. 

While the lack of federal aid means a scaled-down program akin to pre-COVID years, Kerkhoff said she and district staff are committed to serving anyone who shows up at the door. 

"I want to reach as many families as we can," Kerkhoff said.

Littleton Public Schools, LPS, food, food insecurity

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