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NORTH BEND — With summer break drawing closer and closer for students, the North Bend School District is getting ready for its summer lunch program, now entering its 18th year.

It began in 1998 because the district saw a need, saw that it was feeding breakfast and lunch to students throughout the year and when summer comes . . . what do the kids do?

“It's an important program because it's not just for the Free and Reduced Lunch kids,” said Food Service Supervisor Linda Gault. “There are a lot of kids who are footloose and fancy in the summer, and at least parents can know their kids are getting good food in the day.”

The free program starts June 20 and goes until Aug. 24, Monday through Friday at noon. There is no sign up sheet, no list for names to be reviewed at food sites and no IDs required in order to get fed. Adults are welcome as well, but do have to pay $2.

“We encourage family time,” Gault said. “That's why we want parents to join their kids, if they can.”

And for the first time, the summer lunch program is headed to Bandon this year. The new sites opening there were requested by the state because there was no summer lunch program in the area, when there are roughly 130 students there.

“They asked if we would pick it up,” Gault said. “We said yes.”

There are 27 food sites this summer, many are apartment buildings and mobile home areas. Gault explained that some of the sites are only one mile apart, and that is because some areas aren't safe for children to walk. Those areas include the McCullough Memorial Bridge for students who live in Lakeside.

“We might only feed five to six kids at some sites,” Gault said, “but at least we are doing our due diligence to get as many kids fed as we can.”

The only requirement is for children to eat the food at the sites. This is in place because the state wants to make sure the students eats it, rather than taking it home and having someone else eat it.

“We also have that requirement because we don't want to have food taken home and saved for later,” Gault said. “We have had it happen where kids will take food and save it, and we don't want someone to put a hot dog in a drawer and eat it in a few hours. There could be illness there.”

To get a list of the food sites, contact the district office at 541-756-2521.

“It's fun to offer anything free to someone,” Gault said. “All round it's a positive program, and it's fun to be part of that. Kids are always excited to get the food.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 236, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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