In its first year, the Lebanon Special School District's (LSSD) Summer Food Service program - which provides a free meal to any child 18 and under - is already expanding as a result of its success.
"On some days, we are feeding over 150 students," LSSD Director of Schools Scott Benson said, crediting LSSD Nutrition Supervisor Angie Ballard with working hard to receive approval for the program, which is funded by the USDA, at the end of May.
Already offered at the Coles Ferry Elementary School Cafeteria, Weatherly Estates and a Tater Peeler Road location, the program is adding a new location to help meet the demand. The program will be available at Don Fox Community Park, Monday through Friday from noon until 12:30, through July 22.
In addition to the LSSD USDA funded sites, Cross Style Church serves lunch at the Wilson County Civic League beginning at noon, Monday through Friday, through July 15. The Cross Style/Civic League meal also includes mentoring, games, activities and Weekend Backpack food.
"Our staff is excited and wants to serve even more children. That is why we added Don Fox Park as an additional site," Ballard said.
And with sweltering summer temperatures and humidity, LSSD is also doing its part to keep students cool.
"This summer has been really hot and humid. That makes us concerned about our students as they walk to our Summer Food Service program sites," said Beth Petty, coordinator of the LSSD Family Resource Center. "In talking with our team, we decided the best way to cool children off and offer them some extra fun for the summer is by providing them with something cold - popsicles and sprinkler systems. So, in addition to a daily meal, we are now offering a chance to cool off and have some fun with friends."
LSSD board members are in unanimous support of adding the new program to the school year's Weekend Backpack program. LSSD School Board Chairman Steve Jones said, "I am thrilled and want to continue this program for years to come. We will do whatever we need to keep it in place. The three of us (school board members) are 100 percent behind the program. All children should have access to a good lunch all summer long, not just during the school year."
"I appreciate people like Angie Ballard and Beth Petty," LSSD Board Member Mark Tomlinson added. "They take the lead and go out there and find out what our families need. Then, they secure programs that provide for that need. They do a wonderful job supporting our school system and our community."
Former LSSD director of schools and current board member Andy Brummett echoed his cohorts' comments.
"As more families find out about this program, it will grow more and more," Brummett said. "This is good for children, and that is our school system's greatest strength - being committed to doing what is good for children. This is a great resource to provide our families."
Ballard and Petty noted they have enjoyed strong support from the school board, school administrators and the community.
"Everyone wants to know how they can volunteer," Ballard said. "This first year, it has been a little hard for us to plug volunteers in because we are working through the program as we go. Next year, we will know where we need help and be able to utilize the generosity that is out there."
Petty said financial donations toward the popsicles would be a great help.
"A few organizations have made up goodie bags for the students to take home for the weekend," she said. "This has been a special treat. Even though they get lunch, several children ask if we have food they can take home. If a church, organization or business wants to help, treat bags or donations of ice pops would be tops on our wish list."
To learn more about the program, contact Ballard at (615) 449-6060, ext. 1019 or Petty at (615) 453-2693. To make a popsicle or weekend food donation, call or e-mail Petty at firstname.lastname@example.org.