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South Kitsap Helpline's summer-lunch program returning

South Kitsap Helpline’s summer-lunch program will return this month after a one-year absence.

Execute director Jennifer Hardison said Helpline is partnering with Seattle non-profit Food Lifeline to run a lunch program from Aug. 19-30 at Port Orchard Armory on Mile Hill Drive.

The meal portion of the program runs from noon to 12:30 p.m. followed by 30 minutes of activities.

Helpline, a nonprofit food bank run out of the old Port Orchard Nursery on Mitchell Avenue, developed its summer-lunch program several years ago. It initially was a 10-week program, but Hardison said it was scaled back in 2010 when the South Kitsap School District developed its own. Hardison said Helpline then went to a two-week lunch session in August to close a gap between the district’s program and the beginning of school.

In 2011, Hardison said Helpline served 177 lunches during the 10-day program. But she said a lack of funding prevented Helpline from hosting the program last year.

“That was heartbreaking,” Hardison said.

Enter Food Lifeline. Hardison said Helpline will join that organization’s Kids Café Program. According to its website, Food Lifeline “provides all the training and equipment, sources and provides the healthy snacks and meals, and even prepares and submits the paperwork required by the Federal government to meet program eligibility and cost-reimbursement standards.”

Hardison said she previously looked into government subsidies, but those mandated that only school-aged children could be fed. She said she was concerned about the prospect of an 8-year-old showing up with a 5-year-old sibling and having to turn the younger child away.

“That’s why we went the route of having it a privately funded camp,” Hardison said.

That policy has changed. Hardison said anyone from 1 to 18 years old is eligible for a free lunch. The site also is this meal site is an equal opportunity provider. Children must eat from three of five different food groups — grain, vegetable, fruit, meat or meat substitute, and dairy — for it to be subsidized. Another new element is the sharing box. Because enough is provided for each child to select all of the food groups, Hardison expects some leftovers. For example, if 10 children elected to bypass taking the string cheese allocated to them, those would be provided to others at the end of the lunch.

Similar to SKSD’s program, which runs through Aug. 16, Helpline also will activities for students after lunch.

“We’re looking at getting a couple of musicians and maybe some guest speakers,” Hardison said. “We just it a really fun and enriching experience for kids.”

Hardison still is seeking donations, particularly those aimed at feeding children during the weekend, and said they can be made specifically toward the summer-lunch program at www.skhelpline.org or at the facility.

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