MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – While most children look forward to summer, the break from the classroom raises challenges for some parents who are left wondering how they will feed their kids without school lunches.
With federal budget cuts and economic instability, the hot summer months are serving up new challenges for local lunch programs. For decades, the Bibb County school system has partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture for the free lunch summer program. The midday meal helps parents who are struggling fill in the gaps and provide their children with regular meals.
"We all know that hunger doesn't take a vacation during the summer," said Bibb County Nutrition Director Cleta Long, "many of these students depend on our school lunches during the school year in order to have good nutrition."
This past year, the number and need has increased. In 2012, Bibb County's program dished out 5,000 meals a day, on Monday they served more than 10,000 kids. Long said they plain to continue to expand their reach by moving into the Twiggs County next year. The new numbers are forcing volunteers to find creative ways to serve. In addition to setting up in schools, they now serve meals out of churches and community centers, reaching out to the neediest parts in the county.
"They may be under a shade tree, we have a school bus that makes a couple of routes," Long said, "we have students to come get their meals sit on the bus and eat their meals and then return home."
For Tanika Robinson, a mother of four, the free meals make all the difference.
"It keeps me from having to worry about an extra meal," she said, "they provide one for lunch so all I have to worry about is breakfast and dinner."
Click here for a full list of locations and sites for Bibb County's summer lunch service.
Houston County schools are also serving lunches this summer, for more information visit the Houston County Board of Education website.
The USDA funded summer lunch program will end July 26.