Free lunches draw crowds of children

first_imgBATTLE GROUND — Whoever said there is no such thing as a free lunch obviously hasn’t heard about the summer program at Maple Grove Primary School.o What: Free lunches for children ages 1 to 18o When: 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday-Thursday, until Aug. 19o Where: Maple Grove Primary School, 12500 N.E. 199th St., Battle Ground.o Cost: Freeo Sponsor: U.S. Department of AgricultureThe program — now in its second year — offers free lunches to children ages 1 to 18, regardless of where they live. The only caveat is that the meal must be eaten in the school’s lunch area.Far more hungry kids are showing up this year than last year, said Mark Jasper, manager of food services at Battle Ground Public Schools.“Last year we didn’t know how many we’d have, so we worked in the 40 range,” he said. “This year, we planned for 90.” Jasper said he and his crew were caught off guard when 134 children showed up for lunch Wednesday, the third day lunches were offered this year.Battle Ground’s success contrasts with the national trend. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports only 16 percent of eligible youngsters participated in its Summer Food Service Program last year, down from 21 percent in 2001, despite record numbers of food stamp recipients. Federal red tape has discouraged some local sponsors, according to the Associated Press, and transportation to meal sites is a problem in rural areas.last_img read more