Tooele County School District is serving free lunch for kids in three Tooele City parks this summer.
The school district has teamed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to feed children via the Summer Food Service Program at Dow James, Elton, and Rancho Park.
In previous years the summer lunch program was held in three elementary schools in Tooele City, but last year, due to construction and grounds work at Harris Elementary School, the school district worked with Tooele City and served lunch at Elton Park instead of Harris Elementary.
“Summer lunch worked at Elton Park last year,” said LeeAnn Hammond, a child nutrition coordinator for the school district. “This year all the summer lunch program will be in parks. The park locations also allows for school custodians to complete their summer work in the schools.”
Starting June 5 and running through July 25, the school district serves lunch, free to children 18 and under, at Elton, Dow James, and Rancho Park from noon until 1 p.m., according to Hammond.
Adults can purchase a lunch for $3.50.
Lunch will not be served on July 4 or July 24.
While the USDA program is aimed at low-income neighborhoods, there is no individual financial eligibility for the summer lunch program, according to Hammond.
USDA regulations prohibit any inquiry into the financial status of the family. That means anyone, regardless of income, can come by to eat lunch, according to the federal guidelines that govern the program.
The USDA reimburses the district for the cost of preparing and serving the meals.
“The biggest regulation from the USDA that we have to enforce is that adults can’t eat food off a child’s plate, because the program is for children,” said Hammond. “There are inspectors from the state that come out and make sure we are following all of the guidelines.”
The school district and Tooele City collaborated to make lunch available in the parks this summer. Part of that agreement calls for the parks to be left clean after lunch is served, according to Hammond.
“If we want to keep eating lunch in the parks, we need the people that eat to clean up after themselves,” Hammond said. “We need to leave our parks clean.”
Currently the district is averaging around 900 lunches served at the three locations, Hammond said.
In order to be eligible for the USDA summer lunch program, the lunches must be served at a location no more than one mile from a school that has at least 50 percent of its students participating in the federal school lunch program in the last five years, according to Hammond.
While the lunches must be served near a qualifying school, children and families do not need to attend a qualifying school to be eligible to receive a free lunch, Hammond said.
The qualifying elementary schools in Tooele are Sterling, Northlake and Settlement Canyon.
The school district also serves summer lunch at Anna Smith Elementary School in Wendover, which is a qualifying school, according to Hammond.
There are no qualifying schools in Grantsville or Stansbury.
The menu for the summer lunch program is posted on the school district’s website at www.tooeleschools.org.