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Oxford School District sees growth in Summer Meal Program

Oxford School District has done its part to feed hungry children this summer, with its Summer Meal Program serving over 5,000 more meals than last year.

The program, which is made possible through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, expanded to two locations for the first time this year. All children – not just OSD students – age 18 and under were allowed to go to Oxford Intermediate School and Oxford Middle school for a free breakfast and lunch. Adults were also welcome to dine for a small charge.

The program’s success was first announced during a July 23 meeting of the OSD Board of Trustees. Dan Westmoreland, Child Nutrition Director, reported a 43 percent increase in the number of meals served during this year’s Summer Meal Program, which ran from June 4 to July 20. 17,345 meals were served this year, compared to 12,016 in summer 2017.

“Offering a second site at our middle school made our meals more available, and of course we advertise it more and more each year,” Westmoreland said. “To us, it is all about feeding kids and keeping them healthy over the summer.”

In May, Mississippi was recognized as the most food-insecure state by a Feeding America study. The study found that in Lafayette County alone, there are 9,850 food-insecure people. Fifty-six percent of the population lives below the SNAP threshold, compared to 39 percent who live comfortably above the eligibility requirements for nutrition programs. Out of all these people, Westmoreland said they averaged 600 diners a day last summer.

Many summer camps and youth organizations frequent the program, including the Boys and Girls Club, OPC summer camps, church groups and daycares. In a May article in the EAGLE, Westmoreland explained that, because those people are charged with caring for children during the day, it only made sense to get them involved with the Summer Meal Program.

As in other years, there were no residence or school requirements, nor any proof of income required, for children to enjoy a hot meal. This practice avoids what Westmoreland calls “overt identification” and maximizes the number of people who are likely to attend, he said.

“Summer Meals has nothing to do with somebody’s lunch status, or their income. It has everything to do with feeding kids,” Westmoreland said. “That’s kind of what I like about it, there’s no identification piece to it. People come from Coffeeville, Water Valley, from all over the outskirts.”

Oxford School District plans to continue providing the USDA program in Summer of 2019, according to a statement from the district.