Summer meals program starts

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NOTE: Broad Ripple Park is a closed site. To find a site, call 211 or visit

Lisa Watson brought four of her nine children to Broad Ripple Park Wednesday.

While they spent some time checking out the playground, the Franklin Township family actually came to the north side park for a free, nutritious lunch, all part of the city's Summer Servings Meal Program. The program, funded by the USDA, provides free breakfast and lunch for those 18 and under at more than 200 sites across Marion County.

Watson likes that it's one less meal to worry about on an increasingly tight budget. She lost her job six weeks ago, leaving the family now solely dependent upon her husband's income.

"I know I'm not the only family out there that needs help," Watson said. "So I'm going to tell as many people as I can about the program...Any help I can get, I will definitely take advantage."

The program doesn't require children to sign up or show any identification. They simply have to eat their meal on site. It's meant to ensure kids have access to a healthy meal while school is out.

According to Indy Parks, studies show only one in seven kids who are part of a free lunch program during school, are getting meals during summer break so the idea is to get to as many as possible. Last year, the program provided 260,000 meals in Marion County alone.

While Lisa's kids have never had to go without a meal like some of their classmates, they do know the benefits of eating three nutritious meals a day.

Jasmyn Watson, 11, said, "I think it's really important so when you go to school you can do your best on tests and stuff like that."

The meals are just for kids, not their parents.

"I can go home and make something for myself," Watson said. "I just want to make sure they get fed and I'm trying to get them to eat healthier and it does cost more."

Watson brought children to the Broad Ripple site because it was already open. Some of the others closer to her home don't open until June 16. She said she plans to take advantage of the program as much as she can.

"I just appreciate it and will utilize it all year and probably next year, too," she said.