Anne Arundel public schools will start providing free summer meals next week to county children.

Beginning Monday, the system will offer meals as part of its annual "Food That's In When School Is Out" program, hoping to serve more than 100,000 meals to county children ages 2 to 18, regardless of income and with no registration requirements, school officials said.

Seven schools will offer meals for at least one month, some serving breakfast and lunch and others serving just one meal. While the program is open to all children, it is expected to be vital to families who use the school system's food service programs during the school year.

"Summer meals are a continuation of the healthy meals we serve throughout the school year," said Jodi Risse, the county schools' food and nutrition services supervisor. "Reaching our children throughout the summer will help them return to school ready to learn."

The program, which is offered Monday through Thursday, begins Monday at Brooklyn Park, Corkran and Meade middle schools and Germantown Elementary School. Maryland City and Tyler Heights elementary schools begin the program June 25, and Old Mill Middle School South begins July 2.

School officials said they will use federal funds to serve meals at various summer school and summer camp sites and will provide a mobile meals service as well.

"It's another way that we're continuing to reach out to students and to be connected with our students and to families that may not have" adequate resources during the summer, said Anne Arundel school board member Deborah Ritchie. "I'm thrilled that we're able to do it."

Eileen Souders, area specialist for the schools' food and nutrition services, said most of the sites will have structured activities, including pool-related camps, parks and recreation programs, and crafts programs. Children do not have to sign up with a program to receive a meal, she said.

"Any child can just walk through the door and receive a meal," said Souders. "We've had summer meals every summer, but it has continued to grow each year with the number of students that we reach."

She added that the meals will be similar to what is served during the school year "with a twist for the summer. We're serving a mixture of hot and cold entrees. We have some sandwiches, like a cold-cut combo, and we have some hot items such as pizza or chicken quesadilla.

"Every day they will be getting fresh fruits and vegetables," Souders added.

Souders said families look forward to the program each year.

"We know that in the summertime, there is a gap for the students who look to be fed during the school year — not that they have any different resources during the summer than in the school year," Souders said. "Our summer program is providing that continuity."

"The response has been great," Souders said, "and we are now expanding into different open sites, and we now hope to reach more and more people."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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