Central PA Food Bank serving free summer lunches to schools

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LOWER ALLEN TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- School may be out for the summer at the West Shore School District, but hungry kids never get the day off.

For the second straight year, the school is partnering with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, providing kids 18 years old and under with a chance to eat free lunches throughout the summer.

Meals will be served Monday through Thursday (except July 4), from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Washington Heights Elementary School and Cedar Cliff High School, every week until August 11. Transportation is provided to Cedar Cliff for free, courtesy of volunteer drivers at First Student bus services.

A number of West Shore schools qualify to participate in the federal free and reduced lunch programs during the school year. What happens though when school isn't in session?

In 2014, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank reached out to West Shore School District, letting them know they would be eligible to provide free summer lunches, as well, according to Dr. Ryan Argot, Director of Federal Programs.

"This is a national thing, not just unique to Pennsylvania," Argot said. "Numerous locations open to provide students with summer meals. This is actually the Food Bank's program, hosted in our building."

Essentially, the Food Bank coordinates with the school's food service providers, sometimes supplying the schools with meals themselves, while also setting up the menus under Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank partners with 55 sites across "eight or nine" school districts, according to Executive Director Joe Arthur.

"In the summer, kids don't stop eating. So we're trying to help our partners and close that gap," Arthur said. "We see as part of our role doing the outreach to the schools to see how they can do the program, and help them get over any hurdles in getting that done."

The school district then provides the staff.

At West Shore School District, summer lunch attendance has tripled in the first week alone compared to last year's inaugural run, says Flo Simmons, who manages the Cedar Cliff lunch location.

"I think as the word gets out, as the summer goes on, I think a lot more children will come," Simmons says.

West Shore may advertise to its students, but you don't have to be a West Shore student in order to participate, Argot says. The program is open to all kids, regardless of family income.

"If you have a cousin visiting from out of town, or if there's a family with a challenging economic situation in Camp Hill, then you are eligible to participate."