Summer lunch program expects more participants this year

By Helena Rodriguez, PNT Staff Writer

Record-high fuel and grocery prices may translate into more children seeking free meals in a summer lunch program, sponsored by Portales Municipal Schools, which begins on Tuesday.

“I’m actually anticipating our participation to go up this year because of high gas prices and grocery prices,” said Shirley Chatterton, food services director for Portales schools. “Through the summer lunch program, this is an opportunity for children to continue to get a well balanced meal.”

Chatterton added that the program is also a big savings for families because children under 18 can eat for free and adults only have to pay $2.50 for meals.

Chatterton said the summer program will follow the same food nutrition guidelines they use for the in-school food program and noted that meals will include fresh fruit and vegetables.

According to the Associated Press, grocery prices have gone up about 6 percent in the last year.

Chatterton said the summer lunch program served an average of 500 meals a day last summer at its various sites around town. She noted that in 2007, numbers were even higher for the month of June, with average daily participation almost at 800.

“I’m really not sure what to expect this year, but we do expect higher numbers,” Chatterton said. “In the past, people travel more in July and so our numbers drop, but between June and July it is usually steady.”

The summer food program will continue each weekday through July 25. Meals will not be served on July 4.