School offers free meals to students, community

Students at IDEA Allan line up for lunch where every child gets a free lunch. (KXAN Photo)
Students at IDEA Allan line up for lunch where every child gets a free lunch. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — School is out for the summer, but an east Austin charter school is still full of kids.

Four days a week, the halls of IDEA Allan are full of students taking summer enrichment classes in courses ranging from ACT Prep to Cultural Cooking. Students start showing up around 7:30 every morning and leave around 1:30 in the afternoon, getting breakfast and lunch in between classes every day.

“It ranges from a sandwich to pizza, to chicken nuggets to grilled cheese,” Briza Guerrero said. Guerrero’s about to start her junior year of high school and says eating healthy meals every day is an important part of her education. “You don’t have to worry about being hungry and it’s less of a distraction so you get to focus in class knowing that you get fed in school.”

Teachers at the school say the meals make a big difference inside the classroom.

“When they eat, they’re in a much better mood,” Ceci Garcia said. “They’re happier, they don’t complain as much and they’re ready to learn.”

Garcia has been teaching at the school for three years and says most of her students are low-income. Many of them don’t always get meals at home, which makes the meals they get for free every day at school, very important.

“I know other families that have to worry about getting a lunch and I know mothers that are out there that have to worry about working to be able to put food on their children’s plate,” Guerrero said. “The people here feed us and that’s one less problem that we have to face every day.”

But the free meals don’t stop there. Every day during the summer, the school opens its doors to the community offering free meals to anyone under 18, even if they’re not students.

“We want to help the community, offering healthy meals to everyone who wants to come and join us to get breakfast or lunch,” cafeteria manager Julio Arguello said. “I’m really pleased. I’m really happy with what we’re doing right now.”

The free meals are part of a program offered through the Texas Department of Agriculture called Seamless Summer. They offer schools or organizations rebates for the meals they provide to the community.

“They’re so happy, they really enjoy what they’re getting,” Arguello said. “Not because it’s free, because somebody’s serving them and making them feel that they’re welcome.”

Arguello says school staff served nearly 500 meals Monday to students and community members.

“To be honest they were so happy to see lunch today,” he said.

School staff say they’re working hard to get the word out about the program, sending fliers home with students, posting signs in the area and putting up banners outside. People under 18 are welcome to come for breakfast every day between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and lunch between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. People older than 18 can also get a meal at an affordable rate.

The Department of Agriculture also offers locating services to help you find an organization or school close to you that offers free meals during the summer months. To find the location nearest you call or text “FOODTX” to 877-877. You can also type your address or zip code in here.

 

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