By MAX FILBY
Everybody likes a free lunch.
It’s why Jodi Rinker took her kids to Findlay’s Glenwood Middle School for the summer lunch program, and why she now takes her two grandchildren there every Monday through Friday.
“It’s free and they’re nice, balanced meals,” Rinker said. “I don’t have to worry if they’re getting what they need because it’s all there.”
Rinker is one of dozens of area residents who participate in the summer lunch program, which offers free lunches to anyone 18 years old or younger. Adults can pay $2.65 for a lunch.
The program is put on by Findlay City Schools and the Hancock County Family First Council in association with a number of other area groups.
People who attend the free lunch, which can consist of anything from sandwiches to pizza to taco salad, are also offered a chance to participate in a number of activities during the hour-long session, said Teresa Welty, food service director for the school district.
Activities include games outdoors, playing with a Nintendo Wii indoors on rainy days, or making bracelets with colors that represent different food groups.
The activities are organized by the Ohio State University Extension office, the Family First Council and the Hancock County Health Department.
“They really come up with some good stuff,” Welty said. “It’s been a good partnership.”
The summer lunch program has about 65 participants on average, so it isn’t reflective of the school district’s free and reduced-price lunch program that assists 42 percent of Findlay’s 5,566 students, or 2,337 students during the school year.
Welty attributes the low summertime number to other programs that are available at local churches and the Salvation Army.
“Even if it’s only 62 people, that’s a good thing,” Welty said. “We’re at least available to help those people.”
Although the summer program doesn’t help as many kids as the district’s school-year program, Superintendent Dean Wittwer said it’s an effort made to help the same students and their families. The program is part of what Wittwer said is an expanding responsibility to help students outside of the classroom.
“We’ve definitely seen an expansion in programs like this over the past few years,” Wittwer said.
Glenwood Middle School was chosen as the location for the summer lunch program in part because people in that area of Findlay use the program more, and the building is new and air-conditioned, Wittwer said.
The new building is something Rinker and others have appreciated as the summer lunch program has evolved.
“A lot of the kids are home by themselves for the summer so this is something that’s even more important for them,” Rinker said. “It’s a great program. We’re glad they keep offering it.”