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News / Clark County News

Clark County children can get free breakfast and lunch this summer

Schools, libraries and apartments to host daily meals

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: June 12, 2024, 6:01am
2 Photos
Share is mixing up the menu for its summer meal program based on surveys given to kids.
Share is mixing up the menu for its summer meal program based on surveys given to kids. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files) (amanda cowan/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Schools across Clark County will close their doors for summer break this week, but there are still several locations where children can access free daily breakfasts and lunches.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service will maintain a summer meals program for children age 18 and younger at schools, libraries and community centers around the county starting June 24.

Share Vancouver, a nonprofit organization helping to organize the meal services, reported last year that about 20,000 children in Clark County were identified as “food insecure,” meaning they don’t have regular access to meals that meet nutritional standards.

Jessica Lightheart, the nonprofit’s community relations director, said Share works with family-community resource coordinators at Evergreen and Vancouver public schools to identify locations most accessible for students. In both districts — the county’s largest — a majority of students have identified as low income.

“Demand for our meal programs at Share remains high. It went up when the pandemic started, and it’s just never come down,” Lightheart said.

Among the provider locations are a handful of apartment complexes, which Lightheart said are especially important for families unable to drive to a meal location during the day.

“It’s always a challenge, folks have to get here. Sometimes for families in need, parents are working or working more than one job,” Lightheart said. “We realized if we could partner with apartment complexes, you’re meeting the need right there.”

This year, Share aims to spice up its meal options compared with previous years adding food options such as loaded potato salad or buffalo chicken sandwiches. Lightheart said many of the choices will be based on survey data Share sent out earlier this year about what kids want to eat.

“It’s nice to be surveying kids and their families to see what they like and challenging ourselves with the budget,” she said. “It’s always important to introduce kids to more fruits and vegetables, but to do some fun things so it’s not simply sandwiches and fruit cups.”

The Department of Agriculture maintains a website where people can find the nearest meal site based on their address or ZIP code at https://www.fns.usda.gov/summer/sitefinder.

Families can also find a nearby site by texting FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304.

Meals must be consumed on site at each location; curbside pickup is no longer available.