There's no such thing as a free lunch, even when you're trying to give it away.
Provo City School District officials are learning that lesson the hard way. In the third year of offering free summer meals, the district is moving the giveaway from the Franklin Elementary School to the city's Pioneer Park pavilion at 500 West and Center Street.Vaughn T. Hawkes, coordinator of purchasing and food services, said the district is getting calls from residents who think "it would be a terrible place" for the meal distribution.
If the clamor becomes too vigorous, Hawkes said, the program will simply be discontinued, although it's been a major success for the past two years.
Last year, almost 600 children a day participated in the free lunch. A good number came for the breakfast, too.
Most are youngsters who live in the Franklin School area, but they don't have to be, said Hawkes.
Anyone under 18 may eat for free. Those over 18 can purchase either the lunch or the breakfast for a nominal fee.
While the district must have a school site that serves more than 50 percent free or reduced-lunch meals to qualify for program funding, those eating lunch or breakfast do not have to prove need.
The district is fully reimbursed for the costs and does not draw on government subsidy foods for the meals. In fact, during the summer, the menu often features hamburgers or pizza provided by a local retailer.
This year, the meals are offered at the park because Franklin Elementary is undergoing demolition and reconstruction work and Hawkes felt it would be hazardous to have children coming there to eat.
However, opponents to the free lunch feel the park provides a variety of hazards as worrisome as the construction at the school, including an open canal along the park's east side, increased vulnerability to strangers and unclean serving and eating facilities.
"We didn't build the park," said Hawkes. "The problems these people see are problems that have existed for years with the park. We'll be bringing in supervision and cleanup crews. We won't be increasing the load because most of the kids are kids that are already there.
"We feel good about the program. We've had a tremendous outpouring of gratitude on the part of parents who appreciate this. . . .
"But," said Hawkes, "if the furor grows, we'll disband."
Summer Food Service Program
The Provo School District plans to operate its Summer Food Service Program through July 29 at Pioneer Park, at the southwest corner of the intersection of 500 West and Center Street in Provo.
Breakfast will be served starting at 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, and lunch will be served at noon Monday through Friday.
Free meals are available to children and are provided without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. People over 18 are considered adults and must pay $1.25 for breakfast and $2.25 for lunch.