The child with glasses took the brown bag lunch in hand and began twisting the top to make a handle of sorts.
Led and followed by staff members of the North Side YMCA, he and about 60 other children walked to a nearby park around noon on a sunny, mild October day.
The boy in the bright red shirt sat down on a bench under a big tree. He untwisted the top of the sack, reached in and pulled out his sandwich.
On this day he was among the 14 children receiving a brown bag lunch provided by the Regional Food of Oklahoma during the first of two weeks of fall break for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Through the program, 14 sites provide lunches to anyone age 18 or younger weekdays through next Friday.
Students already enrolled in the Food for Kids Backpack Program were to receive an extra sack of food on the last day before the fall break, according to the Regional Food Bank. Through the backpack program, children receive a backpack of child-friendly, nonperishable and nutritious food each Friday.
This is the first year for fall break sites, said Angie Gaines, spokeswoman for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. It will be the second year for spring break and Christmas break sites.
These sites are a response to the Oklahoma City Public Schools' expanded school calendar with longer fall and spring breaks and an abbreviated summer break. Overall, the district is in its second year of this schedule, which includes a two-week fall break.
Since about 90 percent of Oklahoma City Public Schools students receive free or reduced-price lunches, that means they are most likely missing out on those meals when school is not in session, Gaines said.
“So we created a way to fill in that gap and provide that nutrition for hungry children,” she said.
Response is good
The Regional Food Bank asked the North Side YMCA, 10000 N Pennsylvania, to begin participating in the program last spring. The response was good. So they tried it in the summer and provided meals to 50 to 60 children each day during the week.
For families on the tightest budgets, it provides a way to feed their children while school is not in session. For others, the situation also is tight. Regardless, the children are getting good food, said Katie Baker, the North Side YMCA site coordinator for youth and families.
“It gives me a good feeling to know that they are eating a nutritious meal, that they're not going home hungry, they've gotten something to eat in their system that day,” Baker said. “Because when they go home for dinner they might not get something to eat that day.”