The La Crosse School District is out for summer break, but in some schools, the kitchen is still open.
Ten sites throughout the community will offer free meals to kids 18 and under throughout the summer months.
Faye Keilley works as a Nutrition Manager in the La Crosse School District.
"Seeing the kids, getting the hugs. I have a little girl every day that gives me a high five when she has her breakfast and lunch," Keilley said. "It’s kind of fun interacting with them and actually watching them grow."
Her passion for her work continues even during summer break. She works the Emerson Elementary School kitchen alone Monday through Friday in the summer months to serve local kids breakfast and lunch.
"I have not had a day off," she said. "I went from regular school to summer school."
The Summer Meal Program provides the free meals without looking at income or asking for fees.
"We’re really excited to not have a gap in hunger for kids who might not have the ability to have nutrition at home," said Lyn Halvorson, School Nutrition Supervisor for the La Crosse School District.
The free meals are federally funded by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Staff use red chips to monitor how many people eat in order to request the federal reimbursement.
"Last week, I served an item, and I thought, ‘I served 41 the day before, so I probably won’t have too many that day,’ because I didn’t think it would be that popular," Keilley said. "Yeah, you always have to have a back up plan, because I ended up serving 47 that day, and I was only prepared for 38."
Keilley says the guesstimating is worth it to serve those kids who are truly in need.
"Some of these kids, this is their meal," she said. "They’re definitely hungry."
The meals are offered at the ten community sites with the highest need. That need was determined with the help of community groups including the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse, The Salvation Army, and Gundersen Health System.
For the first time this summer, the La Crosse School District is offering a brunch option from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Hamilton Early Learning Center. Those students are on a six week break from a year-round school schedule.
Kids do not have to be enrolled in the La Crosse School District to eat in the Summer Meal Program.
For more information about the times and locations of summer meals, visit the La Crosse School District website.