By JACQUELINE MAGNO, HCISD Writer
Harlingen CISD Child Nutrition teams serve fresh, hot meals to anyone under the age of 18 throughout the summer as part of the district’s initiative dedicated to ensuring children are well-fed and eating healthy yearround.
During the school year, students gathered their books, zipped up their backpacks and made a beeline towards the cafeteria, where several of them eagerly waited in the lunch line for their food.
Now that summer vacation has arrived, HCISD Child Nutrition still serves as a powerful force in serving free meals. Monday through Thursday, the Child Nutrition teams serve free meals at designated community centers, neighborhoods, and HCISD campuses. The meals are healthy and comply with the same guidelines as lunches served throughout the school year, which include whole grains, lowfat entrees, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables. “We provide kids three entree options every day,” said Frances Garza, the kitchen manager at Gutierrez Middle School who also distributes meals during the summer.
HCISD offers an array of meals which differ from day-to-day, including chicken burgers, yogurt plates, sliders, rotini pasta, hummus places and deli sandwiches – all of which are prepared at Dr. Cano Freshman Academy by dedicated child nutrition employees. Those same employees deliver the food from the school kitchen to the children’s hands.
Though meals are prepared and distributed by HCISD, the program aims to feed children from all areas of the Rio Grande Valley and beyond. HCISD does not require children reside within school district boundaries to receive a free meal.
“We actually had a mother from Austin; it was her first time here,” Garza said. “We told her that this program was open to the public, and she’s been bringing her child every day since.”
Garza recalled a personal connection she made with a parent whose children receive meals provided by the program.
“She has four kids, and was so thankful for the food we prepared them. Like her, I was a single mother,” she said. “I worked two jobs to support all three of my kids, and if the district had this program when they were little, I would be out here too.” Erica Espinosa, a cook assistant at Cano who distributes the nutritious meals alongside Garza, also realizes the impact the summer feeding program has within the Harlingen community.
“I love what I do,” she said. “You get to see the kids and learn their personalities. They are so happy, especially when they see that we’re serving watermelon.”HCISD Child Nutrition will be serving free meals to all children through August. For a list of locations and our meal menu, visit www.hcisd.org.