Children can eat free this summer at Bluff View

This poster, which hangs in the cafeteria at Bluff View Intermediate School, provides children a visual example of the basic food groups. Those participating in the free Summer Food Service breakfast and lunch programs are expected to take food from at least three of the different food groups for each meal.

By Correne Martin

Free meals are available to children 18 and under this summer at Bluff View Intermediate School in Prairie du Chien through the Summer Food Service Program, funded by the USDA. There is no sign up or personal information needed to participate, and the meals are provided to all children, regardless of need.

“Don’t sign up, just show up,” said Donna Heilmann, food service director for Prairie du Chien High School.

Since 2009, free lunch has been provided in the district during the summer, when free and reduced-price school meals are unavailable, according to Heilmann. This will be the third year for the free breakfast program.

“Helping parents meet the nutritional needs of their children is the strength of this program,” Heilmann said.

The food is served during summer school hours in the Bluff View cafeteria. The first summer school session is June 16-27. The following sessions are July 7-25 and Aug. 4-22. Monday through Friday, breakfast is from 7:30 to 8 a.m. and lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“Typically, the menu is the same type of food we serve during the school year: chicken nuggets, chicken patties, sub sandwiches, pizza and fresh fruits and veggies,” Heilmann said. “Everything is fresh too. I don’t open a can. I pull from wherever I can locally. For the most part, we have five to eight choices of fresh veggies—things like spinach, radishes, rutabagas, broccoli, green beans, snow peas—and two to three choices of the fruits.

“And if they don’t like the main part of the meal, we always give them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a cheese stick or yogurt. If the government is going to pay for this, they want the kids to get a good meal and not leave hungry.”

Heilmann said in previous years, the free lunch has been served to between 150 and 180 most days. “A lot of the kids are already in the building, but we get some who aren’t in school. They might be camping, living in nearby apartments or even coming from out of town. They don’t have to live in the district to participate,” she said.

For breakfast, the numbers are about half of that, around 75, but fluctuate from day to day. The breakfast menu includes foods such as french toast sticks, omelets, pancakes, toast, cereal, pop tarts, juice and milk.

The children eating the free meals may be accompanied by adults, who may also eat for a small fee. “I have a lot of families who come,” Heilmann said. “I keep track of all of the meals so the district can get paid (by the USDA).”

The most important part of the USDA program is that nutritious meals are being offered to children who need them.

“I’m sorry to say this, but there are kids who go day-to-day, only eating here,” Heilmann stated. “I truly love being able to provide these kids with something they’re not getting at home.”

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