During the school year, lunch in the cafeteria may be the only full meal some children receive during the day, and when school is out for summer they may not have access to that resource.
In Fort Dodge, the Athletics For Education and Success program is making sure that need is met throughout the community and Webster County by providing daily meals for youths 18 years old and younger at no cost to them. The meals are made possible though grants and reimbursement from the Summer Food Service Program.
"Anyone 18 years old and under can come and eat," said Joy Schauper, AFES administrative assistant, and the self-proclaimed "lunch lady." "Our lunches are open to the public."
Dayson Clayton, 10, shares a conversation with his cousin, Jaheim Clayton, 10, during lunch at the Athletics for Education and Success building Monday afternoon. AFES participants receive lunch every weekday but the meals are also open to children at no charge.
The lunch program serves anywhere from 20 to 50 meals per day, with the majority to AFES Day Program participants, whose lunch is included as part of the all-day program.
"The AFES kids get breakfast and lunch," said Schauper. "Most of the lunches are still served just to them, but we have had a few kids from the community come in. We're just getting started and getting the word out about the program."
Meals vary each day from a hot to cold lunch, but each is nutritious and includes a serving of fruit, vegetables and and a dairy product.
"Our meals are prepared and served to the same nutritional guidelines as a school lunch," said Schauper.
Monday's meal offered a turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwich along with a serving of fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt and milk.
The sandwiches proved to be a well-liked meal selection by the kids.
"This is the best so far," said 10-year-old Jaheim Clayton. "It's a turkey and mustard sandwich."
Clayton's cousin, Dayson Clayton, quickly ate his sandwich, but had another favorite in mind.
"Cheese pizza," he said.
Desari Sanders knew what the best part of her lunch was.
"I love the strawberries," Sanders said.
"It it was possible, I'd want pizza every day," said 9-year-old Destiny Carter.
Still, Carter was satisfied with Monday's sandwich and fruit.
"This is good, too," she said.
Meals are served daily from 12:30 to 1 p.m. in the lunchroom of the AFES building in the former Hillcrest Elemetary School, 712 Third St. N.W. Adults may also eat with their children for a freewill donation. Fore more information about the program, contact AFES at 955-2969.