FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne Community Schools is continuing its decades-long tradition of sponsoring meals for children in Allen County during the summer.

The summer meals program runs from June 6 through July 29. Every weekday, with exception to June 20 and July 4, kids 18 or younger and adults who are enrolled in a state-approved educational program for the mentally or physically disabled can receive a free meal at various locations.

The locations and times can be viewed below:

Georgetown Library – 6600 E. State Blvd.11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.2:15 – 2:30 p.m.
Little Turtle Library – 2201 Sherman Blvd.11:15a.m. – 12:15 p.m.2:15 – 2:30 p.m.
Pontiac Library – 2215 S. Hanna St.11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.2:15 – 2:30 p.m.
Tecumseh Library – 1411 E. State. Blvd.12:00 – 1:00 p.m.3:00 – 3:15 p.m.
Hessen Cassel Library – 3030 E. Paulding Rd.11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.3:00 – 3:15 p.m.
Allen County Library Main Branch – 900 Library Plaza11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.2:45 – 3:00 p.m.
Shawnee Library – 5601 Noll Ave.11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.3:00 – 3:15 p.m.
Waynedale Library – 2200 Lower Huntington Rd.11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.3:00 – 3:15 p.m.
McMillen Park- Oxford at 5300 Hessen Cassel12:15 – 1:15 p.m. ————

Additionally, a map with all of the locations can be found here.

A few changes are coming along with the program in 2022. During the pandemic, those who came for meals could take them to eat at home.

The waivers FWCS received which allowed for that to happen have expired, and any child or adult who comes to get food has to stay at the site and eat it. The only exception is for fruit and vegetables, which may be taken off-site.

At the Allen County Public Library locations, librarians will have planned activities for children who are there getting a meal, but participation is not required to receive a meal.

The other big change this year is that there are fewer locations that FWCS has partnered with to use as a site for meals.

Rhonda Eitsert, a supervisor at the district’s Nutrition Process Center told WANE 15 staffing shortages at the various sites have limited them in what they’re able to do.

That’s in addition to various food shortages and higher costs that are currently in place.

“We are having some difficulty with getting food from our distributors, from the manufacturers. We’re kind of all in the same boat that if we have the raw material to make the product, do we have the staff to prepare it? Do we have the transportation to get it where we need it? So, that does trickle down into our operation,” Eitsert said.

Despite dealing with those challenges, Eitsert said they’ve worked very hard to continue the program because there’s such a need for it in the community.

Eitsert said it’s estimated that 20% of children in Allen County are living with food insecurity, which becomes worse during the summer when they’re not receiving free meals at school.

She added that food insecurity could be worse this year because of higher costs at grocery stores.

“Particularly this year, we’re concerned about that number widening due to the cost of food and just cost of living, Eitsert said. “Many parents may find that there is a gap between what they can provide for their children in the summer when we’re not providing those meals in the school during the year.”

She believes roughly 3,400 meals will be provided this summer.

Eitsert said the public has always been greatly appreciative of the food that’s provided.

“We do get some feedback from the public occasionally. I know that it is appreciated,” she said.

FWCS will be holding a kickoff event for the summer meals program on June 6. It will be held at the Allen County Public Library Main Branch in downtown Fort Wayne from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Eitsert said it’s a great way for the public to come and support the district’s efforts.

The theme for the event is “Beet Hunger….Turnip for Lunch.”

There will be special foot-related activities at the plaza outside of the library. The event will be moved inside the library depending on the weather.