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Syracuse schools serving up daily meals and a dose of fun for students this summer

Exterior of Seymour Dual Language Academy, one of the meal sites, June 29, 2022.
Emma Murphy
Exterior of Seymour Dual Language Academy, one of the meal sites, June 29, 2022.

The Syracuse City School District is inviting students to enjoy daily meals with their friends this summer at sites around the city.

The summer program is an extension the federally funded meals students can access during the school year. The district qualifies for these universally free meals because of its high number of economically disadvantaged students. About 14,000 Syracuse children live in poverty. The district’s director of food and nutrition services Rachel Murphy said this summer program is about making sure kids are still getting healthy foods during break.

“During the summer months children are not given fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy through the school meal program. The families provide that, and some families struggle to provide that. And this program helps fill the hunger gap. It helps support families,” Murphy said.

Meals include fresh produce and summer-themed foods that can be expensive to buy at a grocery store. That’s why Murphy said they carefully choose the location of the 36 meal sites so students have easy access.

“The goal is to find places kids naturally go to, whether it’s summer school or a school building, or a park playground, or even a community center. We set up shop there and offer them a free breakfast and a free lunch,” Murphy said.

Meal pickups are also opportunities for students to stay in contact with each other. Murphy said there are daily activities at the sites and this year they’re adding special gatherings.

“We have select days at the park sites where you won’t just show up and have a regular lunch. We’re going to have the grills open cooking on site, fresh watermelon, corn and the cob. And the kids will have an actual BBQ that we serve them,” Murphy said.

Identification isn’t required and everyone under 18 is welcome. Since the project receives funding based on participation, organizers hope to see high attendance. Murphy said it's convenient way for parents to feed their children.

“We’re here to serve the kids. Why turn on your own stove and open your own fridge? Somebody’s doing it for you. Come participate. We love to see the kids eat with us,” Murphy said.

The menu and locations of the summer program are available at the Syracuse City School District’s website.