Hunter: Keep lunch program growing

By Gary Huffenberger -



WILMINGTON — Basing his comments on another Ohio school district’s experience, a local resident asked Wilmington City Schools (WCS) officials to take steps to further increase participation in the free summer lunch program here.

Paul Hunter of Wilmington, who described himself as an advocate for student nutrition and specifically for the “Seamless Summer Lunch Program,” addressed the WCS school board Monday night.

The WCS summer lunch program saw “a significant increase” in meals served daily from 60 the first summer to a daily average of 100 this summer, its second year, noted Hunter.

“In my opinion, based on the Urbana District’s longer-term experience, we can and should continue to increase the numbers,” Hunter said.

The Urbana school district has 1,000 fewer students than does WCS and its student poverty rate is 4 percent lower, according to Hunter. In 2014, Urbana served an average 252 summer lunches per day in two locations, he added.

Hunter’s recommendations for raising the local participation rates include adding a second location, which he expects would increase participation significantly.

“Either Holmes or East End, our two buildings with the highest poverty rates in the district, would be candidates. Holmes will have increased accessibility next year when the Truesdell sidewalk from Randolph is completed,” said Hunter.

On Tuesday, WCS Superintendent Ron Sexton said he would love to see the average go up to 200 lunches a day. But he said “feeding over 100 a day is still a pretty good service to families” and he regards it as “still a very successful summer feeding program.”

The superintendent said the program is well publicized, but that district officials are always going to look at ways to further promote it. Hunter said a lot of people claim not to know about the summer lunch program.

The Seamless Summer lunches are provided free of charge to children, 18 years and younger, at the Wilmington Middle School every weekday other than Independence Day throughout the summer. All students can receive the free summer lunches, regardless of family income.

In other news from the board of education’s session:

• Board members approved an anonymous $2,500 donation to the Wilmington Middle School for three in-school artist productions by the Muse Machine of Dayton.

Muse Machine is an arts education organization serving students and their teachers in 10 counties in southwest Ohio. Since its inception in 1982, Muse Machine has produced annual musicals and summer concerts, and engaged students through arts-integrated classroom instruction and interactive workshops, states its website.

• Holmes Elementary School Principal Carrie Zeigler said a PALs program — Peer Academic Leaders — was kicked off this week. It was introduced to some fifth-graders, who Zeigler said “were just looking for a leadership role in the building.”

The plan is to have 55 students in grades five and four do interventions for struggling students in grades K through two.

Once a week for 30 minutes during their library time, the older students will help out through doing math facts and hearing word practice with the younger students.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.


By Gary Huffenberger