BISMARCK, N.D. - Last summer, more than 275,000 free meals were served through North Dakota public school districts.
These lunch programs are most often funded with federal money, but some local banks and businesses also donate to the cause. United Way assists in the funding for the adult meals in both Bismarck and Mandan. Last year, United Way recruited and coordinated 342 volunteers to help all summer long. BNC National Bank, Security First Bank, Starion Bank and Kupper Chevrolet also sponsor and donate to the program.
Seventy percent of students at Mary Stark Elementary in Mandan are on a free or reduced lunch plan.
School administrators and businesses in the community are working hard to make sure that even when school's out, the kids are fed.
Even when school is out, the hunger doesn’t go away.
There are 49 summer meal sites across the state, and four in Mandan.
“We do have two open sites, Dykshoorn Park and Kiwanis Park, we also have two closed sites, at Mary Stark Elementary and Custer Elementary that we serve the kids that go to the summer programs at those schools,” said Becky Heinert, director of nutrition services.
Across the river, Heaven's Helpers Soup Cafe sees more customers when school is out.
“Summers are always busier than winter times. We get a lot of after school kids,” said Mark Meier, director of Heaven's Helpers Soup Café.
Meier says right now the cafe serves anywhere from 150 to 200 people a day.
“This summer I'm anticipating 200-300 a day,” said Meier.
This summer these parks will be filled with not only free food but fun activities too.
“They do crafts, they have gymnastics coming in, they have different shows. It's called Lunch With Heroes. Sometimes the police department, the fire department, they all come,” said Heinert.
Providing food, friends, and fun all summer long.
At closed sites, only kids 18 and younger can be served. Open sites, like the ones at the parks, will serve adults too.
Heinert says they ask adults for a donation of 4 dollars but they will feed anyone, donation or not.