School is out and summer meals are in.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Bensalem Township School District is offering free, nutritious meals through August to local children ages 18 years and younger at a number of sites throughout the community.
This is the Summer Food Service Program, a federally-funded initiative by the United States Department of Agriculture that works to provide healthy foods and a social setting – things many kids and teens lack when classes end in June.
According to Crystal DiGiacomo, assistant food service coordinator for the district, as long as someone meets the age criteria, there are no other requirements such as an application or registration fee. All a child has to do is show up to one of the 15 locations.
“At all of those sites, children during the meal times can walk in, have a meal, have a place to sit down and enjoy it,” DiGiacomo said.
In 2018, the Summer Food Service Program served 24,000 lunches, almost 17,000 breakfasts and 2,300 snacks. It was its most successful year to date.
The district is required to follow certain guidelines and regulations in order to offer well-balanced options. Both breakfast and lunch are comprised of several components, with attendees able to pick and choose what they’d like. DiGiacomo stressed that children are never forced to eat something.
Breakfast always encompasses a grain, fruit/juice and milk. Varying by day and site, menus include items such as mini whole-grain bagels, cereal, applesauce and fresh bananas.
Lunch, on the other hand, usually includes a grain, protein, fruit/vegetable and milk. Options include hoagies, a chicken salad sandwich, hot entrees, barbecue chicken, pizza once a week, and the occasional breakfast-for-lunch treat such as pancakes with sausages.
Vegetarian options like grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are available.
“We try to rotate things that children like during the school year and add them in during the summer as well,” DiGiacomo said.
Each of the schools throughout the district are designated meal sites, and most are equipped with a playground, picnic tables and air-conditioned cafeterias that are open to Summer Food Service Program participants.
Kids can also enjoy meals at Bristol’s Silver Lake Nature Center the Bucks County Free Library in Bensalem and Levittown, each providing special activities in addition to the food.
“If people go to Silver Lake, they can enjoy the grounds of the nature center, go for a walk or hike. They have animals inside that the kids could look at before or after they have their meal,” DiGiacomo said.
With the 2019 program officially underway, DiGiacomo hopes to accomplish a few simple things.
“The main thing is, we just want to get the word out so we can have more people participate and know that it’s available,” she explained. “We really want the kids to come in the summer, make sure they get our nutritious meals and come back in September ready to learn.”
The Summer Food Service Program is available at the following locations: Belmont Hills Elementary School, 5000 Neshaminy Blvd.; Cornwells Elementary School, 2215 Hulmeville Road; Bensalem High School, 4319 Hulmeville Road; Bensalem Community Park, 4301 Richlieu Road; Bucks County Free Library, 3700 Hulmeville Road, and 7311 New Falls Road, Levittown; Just Children – Bensalem, 2354 Galloway Road; Samuel K. Faust Elementary School, 2901 Bellview Drive; Cecelia Snyder Middle School, 3330 Hulmeville Road; Just Children – Interplex, 2607 Interplex Drive, Feasterville-Trevose; Nona’s Loving Care Learning, 100 Prospect St., Bristol; Silver Lake Nature Center, 1306 Bath Road, Bristol; and Teddy Bear College, 5285 Bensalem Blvd.
Specific dates and times are available at bensalemsd.org/apps/pages/SummerMeals
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com