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COOS BAY — The Coos Bay School District has been offering free lunches to students over the summer for years, but they couldn’t escape the feeling there are more hungry children out there.  

They will find out for sure this summer as they add mobile service to their annual program.

Diane Follansbee, an accounting technician with the school district business office, was brought in last year to find a way to get more children the food they miss out on when school’s not in session.  

“It’s going to be really exciting because there is a huge need out there,”  Follansbee said Monday. “These kids are used to having free breakfast and lunch all year at school.”

The district got a good start thanks to some grant funding. United Community Action Network in Roseburg helped the district recruit an AmeriCorps volunteer for the summer. Another grant through Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon got them the transport carts they needed to safely move hot and cold food at the right temperatures.

Throw in the school district van — and some magnets for the side of the van — and the district is ready to move meals.

“USDA and ODE require that all of the food be kept at the proper temperatures to be safe to eat,” Follansbee said as school district maintenance workers loaded the picnic tables for transport to the sites.

Those tables, purchased through a deal with ProBuild, are a new addition and will give the children somewhere to sit while they eat.  

Coos Bay’s Summer Lunch program officially starts Monday, June 24, but Follansbee said the district is going to start serving snacks Wednesday.  

“We’ll be running the route,” she said. “Sodexo will be providing milk, fruit and some crackers, just so we can get an idea of how many kids we are talking about for Monday.”

The district expects a large turnout for the snacks and meals. Follansbee said one of the sites, Woodland Apartments, has 92 children who may take advantage of the program.

“The kids can just come out of their house, go right to the picnic tables, and sit and have a nice meal,”  she said.

The program is free for kids 18 and under, and there is no registration necessary. Anyone over 18 also can get a meal for a $2 charge.

The menu is subject to change, but includes things like pizza, hamburgers and popcorn chicken.  Healthy necessities like milk, fruit and vegetables are also on the list.  

The route will end up at the Maslow Project, so any left over food from that day can still be used by those in need.

Madison Elementary School and Blossom Gulch Elementary School will continue to serve free lunches at the schools, from 11:15 a.m. to noon, each week day. The meal program will not be available July 4.

You can find more information about the menu or the delivery schedule on the school district’s website at http://cbd9.net.

Reporter Tim Novotny can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, at tim.novotny@theworldlink.com, or on Twitter at @novots34.

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