In the 23 years Tracie Prevost has worked at Scotchtown Hills Elementary School, she has seen a lot of changes in the community over the years. One of them was the rise in number of students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.
This year, Prevost, the Scotchtown Hills principal, decided to make a request that the school be a free summer meals site to make sure her students don’t go without eating just because class isn’t in session.
“What happens to them during the summer if they don't have that meal?” Prevost said. “It’s important for me to advocate for my students and the entire community.”
Prevost has been with Scotchtown Hills Elementary School since it opened on Dorset Road in 1995, beginning as a fourth-grade teacher, moving up the ranks to become assistant principal and then taking over the top spot in 2005.
In early July, Prevost requested the school to be a site through Prince George’s County’s Food and Nutrition Services Department. The school opened its doors to all children to receive lunch on July 9.
Joan Shorter, director of the food and nutrition services department for Prince George's County Public Schools, said that the summer meals sites are located where there is a high percentage of students who receive free or reduced priced meals during the school year.
Approximately 62 percent of students in the 132,000 school system receive free or reduced price meals, according to Shorter.
For the 2017-18 school year, about 69,200 students received free meals and 11,700 paid a reduced rate for meals in Prince George’s County, according to the data from the State Department of Education.
Forty-three percent of students enrolled in the Maryland state public school system receive free or reduced-price meals, according to the data.
There are about 100 summer meal sites in the county, serving either breakfast and lunch or only lunch, according to Shorter.
The summer meals program, completely funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides meals to all children under the age of 18 years old. When a child goes to a meal site, they do not have to provide their name or residency.
Some of the sites located in the county are open sites, which means that any child is eligible to come to the location and receive a meal. There are also closed sites, locations that host academic summer enrichment programs where meals served are only for enrolled children.
At the Scotchtown Hills site, free lunch is served from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The site is open until Aug. 16.
Hot meals are offered Monday through Thursday at select locations, Shorter said.
“All other locations receive cold lunch and breakfast because those sites do not have the capability to prepare hot meals on site,” Shorter said.
Some examples of hot lunches include hot dogs, nachos, cheese pizza and orange chicken. Cold lunches include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey subs and tuna salad. All lunches are provided with milk and a fruit and vegetable component.
For the sites that serve breakfast, children can receive yogurt, apple cinnamon rolls and assorted mini muffin loaves, depending on the day.
Other summer meal sites in the Prince George’s County section of Laurel include Montpelier Elementary School, Deerfield Run Elementary School, Logan Academy and Learning Center, Transitional Zone Inc., and the T. Howard Duckett Community Park, according to the State’s Department of Education’s summer meals site finder.
“We go to libraries, community centers, apartment complexes … wherever we can drop off meals we will,” Shorter said.
Prevost said it’s important to children to know that if they don’t have access to lunch at home during the summer that they can turn to the school.
“I just believe that children need to have their breakfast and lunch,” Prevost said. “They need their tummies to be full so they can concentrate on what they have to do.”