Forget what you heard — there is such a thing as a free lunch, and it’s available to all local children throughout the summer.
Feeding Laramie Valley kicked off the third summer of its Kids Out to Lunch program Monday, inviting children 18 and younger — and their parents, guardians or grandparents — to enjoy a fresh, healthy meal and accompanying activity any weekday from now until Aug. 10.
“They don’t have sign up or prove that they’re worthy or anything like that to have lunch,” Program Director Sandy Moody said. “They just walk in and eat. And we just hope to have enough food to accommodate whoever should happen to show up.”
Feeding Laramie Valley is a nonprofit organization that attempts to address food insecurity in Albany County by collecting, growing and distributing fresh food.
The organization exists “to explore ways of working together on a common goal of local food sovereignty, security and equity,” according to its website.
Moody said the Kids Out to Lunch program fits neatly into this mission.
“It’s to help … dispel the myth that you can’t grow food at 7,200 feet and to teach people how to grow food and have fresh foods more accessible,” Moody said.
One such activity will involve taking part in a youth-oriented gardening club sponsored by the Laramie Garden Club.
The program is also staffed by volunteers from the AmeriCorps VISTA program, who will prepare and serve the food, as well as guide activities.
“I made a Twister set so we can play Twister outside,” volunteer Sarah Dupper said, adding the children would also get to play soccer and croquet. “We got a couple ‘name games’ planned for kids who are here a couple times a week so that we kind of get to know them as well throughout the summer.”
Moody said anywhere from 15-75 children will come on any given day, though the organization has never had to turn a child away.
“We haven’t had a problem so far,” she said. “We just never know how many people are going to show up. I never know, from one day to the next, what to expect, so we just always try to be prepared.”
The meals prepared by Feeding Laramie Valley will use ingredients purchased from local vendors and bread donated by Solstice Acre Breads.
“We always have a vegetarian option and we’re willing to accommodate anybody with dietary needs,” Moody said.
The program has grown since summer 2016, its first year, when Feeding Laramie Valley offered lunch just three days a week. Feeding Laramie Valley is part of the larger nonprofit Action Resources International, which supports grassroots efforts advancing health, security and justice.
From 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, those 18 and younger can receive a free lunch at Feeding Laramie Valley’s building in LaBonte Park. For a suggested donation of $1.50, adults accompanying them can have a meal as well. From 12:30-1:30 p.m. every day, the children will be able to take part in some kind of activity.
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