IL free lunch program will continue due to hefty donation - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

IL free lunch program will continue due to hefty donation

HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) - Funds were looking slim for summer lunch program in southern Illinois, until organizers got a hefty donation.

“It would be very hard to make it through the summers because sometimes, it's just not that easy, the money ain't there,” parent, Angela Sullivan said.

For Sullivan, she and her family have been going to the Harrisburg school district's free summer lunch program since it started three years ago.

“At least I have the money for their two meals a day instead of having to do three, so it really helps out that way," she said.

The meals are not income based.

“It is for anyone that wants to come and have lunch with us,” summer head cook, Michelle Hughes said.

While a grant originally helped fund the program when it started, school administrators say more and more money has been cut from the program each year.

“There are state reimbursements on meals, we have to give the right components to the meals, like the whole grains, the fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy,” Hughes said. “We have to follow those guidelines to have a reimbursement meal and so yes the state federally reimburses meals, but it's still not enough to defray the costs of what all of the groceries would cost.”

That's when the Fowler-Bonan Foundation and People's National's bank stepped in; each giving $5,000 to help with the program.

“We could not let this program cease," Fowler-Bonan chairman, Dale Fowler said. "So it goes back into our mission of if we can properly clothe a child and a child is properly fed, they're going to stand a better chance in life.”

Sullivan said this program does more than just help feed her children.

“My little boy just turned four, he has down syndrome, so it helps him out too to try to carry his own tray and to sit at the tables because that's what they're working on him for the therapy," Sullivan said.

Serving about 140 lunches each day last summer, Hughes said she expects an even bigger attendance this summer.

Hughes said she's unsure how the program will be funded for next year, but is hopeful.

“We will make it, we will make it one way or the other,” Hughes said.

Free lunch is provided to children who are 18 and younger, and $3 for those that are 19 and older.

The free summer lunch program is from June 8 through August 14 between 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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