The Summer Lunch for Kids & Teens program will be back for its fourth season at Stange’s Park starting next Monday. Sponsored by Merrill churches, the program offers a free healthy lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to anyone who needs it.
Each involved church – St. John Lutheran, Our Saviour’s Lutheran, St. Stephen’s, Christ United Methodist and Trinity Lutheran – are in charge of one day per week. Each church provides the food and the volunteers for their day.
The program debuted in 2013 with lunches served on Wednesdays.
“We started with one day a week,” said said program coordinator Sheila Drury. “We wanted to see if it was feasible.”
With the involvement of more churches, the program was expanded last year to cover five days a week.
The program began with a question: What happens to children who qualify for free or reduced school lunch when school is not in session? With initial grant funding from the United Methodist Foundation, a group of volunteers worked to establish the Free Summer Lunch program. The program is now run strictly on donations from congregations, volunteers and businesses in Merrill.
“Clearly this is a community wide effort,” said Drury.
Lunches are prepared every day for 100 people.
“Some days will be really busy,” Dury said. “We have gone over 100.”
It was decided to hold the program under the shelter at Stange’s Park, rather than at one of the churches, to make it more inviting and less intimidating to people.
“That’s a perfect place to do it,” Drury said. “It’s not a church program, it’s a community program.”
Merrill Area Public Schools will also be offering free breakfast and lunch at Kate Goodrich Elementary School from June 13-24, while summer school is in session. Breakfast will be served from 7:15–8:15 a.m. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m.–12 p.m.