Well-balanced meals can be in short supply for some area children when school lets out for summer break. Schools in the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas are opening their doors each weekday to ensure kids under 18 years old don't go hungry.
"School-aged children have hunger needs in the summer just the same as they do during the school term," says Fort Smith Schools Superintendent Dr. Benny Gooden.
Lunches will be served at nine elementary schools in Fort Smith on weekdays between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., according to Gooden. Locations include: Ballman (2601 South Q St.), Carnall (2524 S. Tulsa St.), Morrison (3415 Newlon Rd.), Spradling (4949 Spradling Ave.), Trusty (3300 Harris Ave.), Barling (1400 D St. in Barling), Howard (1301 N. 8th St.), Pike (411 Park Ave.) and Sunnymede (4291 N. O St.).
Lunches are free for children under 18 years old and $3.25 for parents. Gooden says the summer lunches feed about 1,500 area kids each day.
"The best thing about it: there's no paper work to fill out, it's free, school-aged children can eat, no questions asked," said Gooden.
Crystal Gant brings her kids to Spradling Elementary School in Fort Smith for lunch because she says it's convenient and more nutritious than other options.
"Sometimes we're not at home so instead of getting some fast food we can come here and get something they can actually eat without having to worry about all the fatty stuff," said Gant.
Phillip Garcia, program coordinator of the summer meals program in Fort Smith schools says they strive to give kids quality food they'll enjoy.
"We'll have hamburgers and we'll have hotdogs, of course, because those are what kids want," said Garcia. "We'll have tacos, we'll have spaghetti, we'll have chili macs, we'll have nachos, and, of course, on Fridays we always have pizza."
Free breakfast will also be available for children weekdays from 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at five Fort Smith elementary schools: Howard, Pike, Morrison, Sunnymede and Spradling. Parents may eat breakfast for $2.
Schools in Northwest Arkansas also offer summer lunches. The Fayetteville school district will serve lunch weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Owl Creek School located at 375 North Rupple Road.
In Springdale, lunches will be served at Parson Hills Elementary School (2326 Cardinal Dr.) and Elmdale Elementary School (420 North West End Ave.) weekdays beginning at 11:15 a.m., according to the district's Communications Director, Rick Shaeffer.
Since some students are unable to get to school during the week, the Rogers School District is bringing food to the students. The district will deliver meals to three different locations throughout the community each weekday.
Deliveries will begin at 11:15 a.m. at the Center for Non-Profits (1200 W. Walnut St.) in Rogers followed by the Meadow Park Apartments (840 N 16th St.) from 12:30 p.m. until 1 p.m. Finally, lunches will be available near the pool at the Edgewood Apartments (2325 Beechwood St.) from 1:15 p.m. until 1:35 p.m.
Most area schools conclude the summer meals program August 2.
Booneville Elementary School located at 386 West 7th serves breakfast from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Monday through Friday. They will be closed July 4.
Magazine High School located at 310 East Priddy serves breakfast from 8-9 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Monday through Friday. They will be closed July 4 and 5.
Paris Middle School located at 602 North 10th St. serves lunch only from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. weekdays, except July 4.