School system offers free meals at local schools and libraries this summer

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Baltimore County Public Schools will begin serving free breakfast and lunch Wednesday at 44 schools — including six in the Catonsville and Arbutus areas — to children who might rely on similar services during the school year.

Ten county branch libraries have been providing free lunch since June 19 and will offer meals until Aug. 25, while participating schools will serve breakfast and lunch from July 5 to July 28 as part of the Summer Food Service Program.

The local participating schools include Halethorpe Elementary School, Johnnycake Elementary School, Lansdowne Elementary School, Lansdowne Middle School, and Riverview Elementary School. The area libraries providing meals include the Arbutus Library, the Lansdowne Library, and the Woodlawn Library.

"The whole point and purpose of the programis to provide nourishment to youngsters in need," said Karen Levenstein, director of the school system's Office of Food and Nutrition Services. "… We encourage with all of our heart for families to come out and utilize these programs that are available."

Free meals at the libraries are open to the public, while school meals will be open to anyone 18 and under. The sites are located in areas of need, where 50 percent of enrolled students are eligible for the Free and Reduced Meal Program, which provides meals for reduced prices or at no cost at schools during the school year.

Libraries and schools will serve lunch at about noon, while schools will serve breakfast at specific times between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m., depending on the day. Breakfast consists of cereal, a breakfast bar or a pastry, with a side of fruit or juice and milk. Lunch is a cold sandwich, fruit or vegetable, juice or a frozen treat, and milk.

The school system will serve food for 49 days this summer — a 10-day increase from last summer due to the state-mandated delayed school start date.

Last year, BCPS served 235,304 meals to individuals and families, Levenstein said. About 121,000 meals were breakfasts and about 114,000 were lunches. The school system is expecting about a 2 percent increase this summer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds food and labor costs, while the BCPS provides the meals.

The service has been in place for almost three decades, but the school system only partnered with the libraries about three years ago, Levenstein said, which increased awareness and popularity.

Jody Lydic, area supervisor of the school system's food services office, said the program is especially important for parents who work and can't necessarily provide food to kids at home.

"This at least takes some of the burden off them so they don't also have to worry about food for their kids," Lydic said.

Other county libraries providing meals include the Essex Library, the Loch Raven Library, the North Point Library, the Reisterstown Library, the Rosedale Library, and the White Marsh Library.

A full list of schools providing meals can be found at bcps.org.

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