By Chris Collins
When classes end Thursday, Baker children of all ages won't have long to wait before lining up for a summer lunch provided by the school district.
Monday will be the first day of the Baker School District's summer food program, which will continue through Aug. 30.
Free meals will be served to all children 18 and younger beginning at noon Monday and continuing daily through Friday (except on July 4-5) at two sites this summer, according to Jessica Wickert, the district's food services director.
The summer meals program is returning to Brooklyn Primary School, 1350 Washington Ave., where hot lunches will be served daily. Sack lunches will be distributed at the Baker City Christian Church at 675 Highway 7.
The YMCA had handled the lunch program for the past three years at Brooklyn, but the school district is taking it back this year, Wickert said.
The district received a small grant to help fund the summer program, but most of the cost is paid with federal money. The district will be reimbursed at a rate of $3.47 for every child served through the program.
"On paper, with the numbers we are estimating, it should be a money-maker," Wickert said.
Last year, the numbers varied from between 40 to 100 children throughout the summer, she said.
The menus will be similar to those served in the schools during the year, with main courses such as cheeseburgers, chicken tacos, macaroni and cheese and turkey sandwiches, Wickert said.
She says she was happy to add a second site this year in order to serve students who don't live near Brooklyn School.
The church, on the far south end of town, was eager to participate after the idea was broached to youth minister Jase Madsen, Wickert said.
"It was just kind of presented to us as an opportunity," Madsen said. "We want to do anything we can to reach out to the community."
Madsen will be relying on help from Nick Mastrude, a 2011 Baker High School graduate who is attending Boise Bible College and is serving an internship at the church this summer. Church members also will be asked to help distribute the sack lunches.
Madsen said games and other activities will be scheduled after lunch, lasting until about 1 p.m. daily.
"It will be a little bit of an undertaking," he said. "We want it to be a place where kids can come and get a free meal, play some games and hang out."
Members of Brooklyn's nutrition staff will prepare the hot meals and the sack lunches.
There is no need to register - children participating in the summer lunch program are asked only to arrive in time for the meal. Activities also will be scheduled at Brooklyn daily and story time and reading will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Hillary Frates has been hired to supervise and coordinate the activities, which will include physical activities and arts and crafts.
The Building Healthy Families program also will be on hand each Friday to provide special programs and events in conjunction with the lunch program, Wickert said.
For those who don't live within walking distance of the school, the Community Connection trolly, in partnership with the school district, will supply free transportation to Brooklyn. Children are asked to meet the trolly along its usual route and they will be delivered to the school.
The trolly does not travel past the underpass in south Baker City, so the free transportation will not be available to lunch program participants who live past the route, Wickert said.
More information about the free trolly rides is available by calling 541-523-6591 or by visiting this website: www.neotransit.org.
Those older than 18 may eat lunch at either site after purchasing meal tickets for $3 each at the district office, 2090 Fourth St. Adults must buy the meal tickets in advance and have them in hand in order to participate in the program, Wickert said.
For more details about the summer meals, call Wickert at 541-524-2260.