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Lunch plus fun

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HULA TIME: Vicki Shafer, nutrition advisor for Purdue Extension, at left, hands out Nutrition Education Program flying discs and offers students the chance to take a jump rope or hula hoop challenge as Northview Elementary School kicks off its summer lunch program on Monday.
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LUNCH IS SERVED: Cousins Adrian Elkins, first grade, and Analysha Willis, fifth grade, go through the line as Northview Elementary School kicks off its summer lunch program on Monday.

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

GAS CITY — Mississinewa Community Schools is partnering with Purdue Extension’s nutrition education program this summer to provide lessons and activities during some lunchtimes.

Amanda Worrick, director of food services for Mississinewa schools, said although the school’s free summer meal program is not new, it continues to grow.

“The USDA pushes it more and more every year, because the need keeps growing,” Worrick said.

The United States Department of Agriculture funds the summer meal program. Mississinewa is eligible for federal funding because 50 percent or more of the student body is eligible for free or reduced meals.

But Worrick stressed that any child in the community, whether they receive free or reduced meals or not, whether they attend Mississinewa schools or not, can eat for free. Parents accompanying their children can also purchase a meal for $3.

“It’s so important because kids still need to eat nutritious meals even through the summer,” Worrick said. “This program not only helps those in need but it helps all children. It helps parents out with the extra expenses that they have when they have their kids home all summer long.”

At the summer meal kickoff Monday, Vicki Shafer, nutrition advisor for Purdue Extension, was handing out free frisbees and supervising kids playing with hula hoops and jump ropes. She will be leading a Coordinated Approach to Child Health, or CATCH, program this summer at Northview Elementary and Mississinewa High School, two of Mississinewa’s three free meal locations.

CATCH is a national program that teaches children about nutrition and exercise.

Shafer plans to show kids how to prepare a healthy snack and lead them in activities like games, jumping rope and bean bags.

“We do this (nutrition education program) in the school system in the third grades of every school in Grant County,” Shafer said, “but this is the first year doing CATCH in the summer.”

She said one thing kids will learn this summer is three categories of foods: “go,” “slow” and “whoa” foods. “Go” foods are healthy foods you can eat plenty of, like fruits and vegetables, “slow” foods are foods that should be eaten in moderation, like dairy and breads and “whoa” foods are foods that should be eaten the least often, like french fries and desserts.

Lezlie Winter, assistant superintendent of Mississinewa schools, praised Worrick’s work on the summer meal program.

“Our director of food services works extremely hard to bring programming to our school, and to bring fun, enjoyment and interaction in a very warm and caring environment,” Winter said.

Winter said Worrick pursued Purdue Extension to bring CATCH to the summer food service program.

“Anytime you can bring more resources into your school system, especially when people are passionate and knowledgable, we’re eager to partner with them,” Winter said of the partnership.

On Monday, Mississinewa schools served 155 children free lunches of chicken nuggets, whole grain waffles, carrots, applesauce, fresh oranges, fresh cucumbers and milk.

Worrick said last June Mississinewa schools served an average of 85 breakfasts and 175 lunches per day.

The CATCH program will host activities from 11:15 a.m. to noon on June 15 and 22 and July 13 and 20 at Northview Elementary, and June 13 and 27 and July 11 and 25 at Mississinewa High.

Free breakfast is served to all children from 8:30-9 a.m. at Northview and 9-10 a.m. at Mississinewa High. Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at both Northview and Mississinewa High. Meals are offered Monday through Friday.