Judith Mboli knew lunchtime was coming, but she didn’t know from where lunch food for her three children was coming.
Food for dinner that day was available at home and already planned, but Mboli wondered how she would fill the nutritional gap between breakfast and supper.
Then she saw a notice on social media about a new Fairfield schools free summer lunch program offered in three locations around the district that is designed to help low-income families feed children who during the school year receive federally subsidized free meals at school.
“This really helps,” she said as she watched her children join about two dozen others for those lunches in the Fairfield Acres mobile home park on Friday.
Fairfield is the latest local school district to extend its free student lunches into summer break. Local school systems mirror national trends as more districts try to help poor families increase their “food security.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture the definitions of food security are twofold. Low food security includes reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet, and there is little or no indication of reduced food intake. Very low food security includes reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.
Ohio is one of the most food insecure states in the nation, according to a 2017 national report.
About 16 percent of Ohio households have low or very low food security, according to data published in September by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.
Three years ago, Lakota School was the first in the area to use a mobile food truck to bring hot and cold meals to needy school-age children in West Chester and Liberty townships.
Hamilton soon followed with their own food truck program, and Middletown Schools will offer such a program via a new, specially designed food truck.
Ron McWhorter, nutrition specialist for Fairfield Schools, helps to set up the free meals hauled around by a converted district truck.
He recently watched as dozens of kids and their parents enjoyed the fare.
“We fill food gaps, that’s what we are here for,” said McWhorter.
“We just started the program but we’re already averaging between a 100 to 110 students each day. We expect those numbers to go up as the summer (break) goes on.”
Erika Leon, mother of four children walk over each weekday around noon to take part of the free food program.
“I appreciate it a lot and it’s very good. And my children like it,” said Leon.
Gina Gentry-Fletcher, spokeswoman for the 10,000-student Fairfield Schools, said officials recognized the nutritional needs of students weren’t always being met during summer break.
“As a district, we are constantly seeking ways to provide services and outreach that are meaningful to our families and community. We want to encourage our families to take advantage of this program throughout the summer. It has been going well so far, and we are seeing increases in participation,” said Gentry-Fletcher
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