HAWLEY - “Free Kids’ Picnic” is the name for the new summer lunch program being offered to any and all children ages 18 and younger this year, at the bandstand in Bingham Park, Hawley.

HAWLEY - “Free Kids’ Picnic” is the name for the new summer lunch program being offered to any and all children ages 18 and younger this year, at the bandstand in Bingham Park, Hawley.
Brenda Zeiler, Food Service Director and Dietician at Wallenpaupack Area School District, explained the program at the Hawley Council meeting, June 12. The borough is giving her full support, offering to assist in any way they can. If weather prevents having the lunches at the park, the program is to be moved across the street to Borough Hall.
Hot as well as cold lunches will be provided from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, from June 24 trough August 9. The only exception is July 4 and July 5, when there will not be any lunches served.
No enrollment is necessary, and any child may participate. She said that the purpose of the free program is to help ensure that children are receiving a nutritious meal even when school is not in session. The lunches have to be eaten at the site, rather than taken away, to ensure they are being eaten by the children, she said.
The School District made an application with the PA Department of Education and she said they are awaiting final approval. The lunch program is actually sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Both federal and state dollars reimburse the district for the expenses, based on the number of meals served.
“I am hoping we will have at least 50 children there,” she said. Flyers are being distributed to local food pantries, churches, the media and other places to help spread the word. The news is being spread fast on the school district’s Facebook page.
Although there’s no way of predicting the turnout, Zeiler said that they will plan for 75 meals on the first day and go from there. If they come close to running out and more kids are there, she said that they will have backup peanut butter & jelly sandwiches which they can have brought from the school.
She stressed that the meals will be on a “first come, first serve” basis and each child is limited to one meal.
Because Wallenpaupack has a couple building sites considered “high risk” due to the median income level, she said that the district qualifies for distributing free lunches.
The meals will be prepared at the Middle School and delivered in a school van. Two school personnel will serve as site supervisors, her cafeteria managers from the Middle School, Gega Richards, and North Primary School, Teresa Benetos.
Picnic tables at the bandstand will be used, where the children may eat.
USDA inspectors and probably PA Department of Education inspectors, will monitor the program.
Serving equipment is being used that actually date from when Wallenpaupack had classes at the Paupack, Greeley and Lackawaxen schools, around 30 years ago. Zeiler said they are hoping the insulated equipment will serve them well, in keeping the food hot. Temperatures will be checked before leaving the school and again at the park.
Accurate and detailed records have to be kept.
Wallenpaupack meals have five components, protein, milk, fruit, vegetable and grain. Zeiler said they can use three components. Milk must be served, as well as have water available.
An example of a lunch is a taco, tortilla chips, lettuce, sliced tomato, cheese, steamed corn, hash brown patty and fresh grapes. At least three components must be taken, and one must be a vegetable or a half cup of fruit to meet the guidelines.
A cold lunch example is turkey in a wrap, or on a pretzel bun or hoagie roll, with cheese, tomato and romaine lettuce available.
Menus will be available online at wallenpaupack.org and posted on the school van at the site.
USDA regulations are very specific, Zeiler said, including the start and finish times, and even the font size on the flyer.

Editor’s note: Some details in this article were added from an interview with Mrs. Zeiler after the meeting.