Summertime is no doubt a popular time of year for kids because they don’t have to go to school. But, summertime can pose a problem for many children in the Tampa Bay area who rely on school cafeterias for their meals.
A website called Summer Food Florida aims to help these kids. Parents can visit the website to find out where kids under 18 can go to get free food when school is out. The website has a section that parents can click and enter their address to find a location to get free food.
Educators say these food programs, through the US Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, are vital. “Right now we are serving about 210 children at breakfast time and about 250 at lunch time,” Pinellas County food service manager Richard Mazzarese said.
This summer, Mazzarese works out of the Belleair Elementary School cafeteria in Clearwater. It’s his job to make sure hundreds of kids in the community don’t go hungry during the summer. “It makes my day. It starts my day and it ends my day. When I can see kids in line that are coming in here, getting a free meal at breakfast time, and let’s face it the kids need it at breakfast time to be able to go to class and learn,” Mazzarese.
“We are a Title 1 school, which means we have a large number of our kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch, so yes it is a very needed program for our kids so we can make sure everybody has food in their stomach and then is ready to learn,” Belleair Elementary assistant principal Susan Manche said. “And we want to do everything we can to make sure our kids are ready to learn and that’s a big part of the reason of this program is to make sure nobody is going hungry.”