COME & GET IT! St. John children invited to free summer meals

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

RESERVE — Joetta Matt was at East St. John High School Monday afternoon, enjoying watching her 3-year-old granddaughter, Amory Leboeuf, scarf down a good lunch.

Pizza, corn, salad and pineapple were on the menu Monday.

“We come every year,” Matt said. “My son plays football here and (Amory is) at cheer camp, so that’s why we come to this site. It 100 percent helps because I baby-sit all summer so it keeps me from having to cook breakfast and lunch.”

Matt was taking advantage of the Summer Food Service Program, which started this week and feeds all local children for free.

Joetta Matt sits with 3-year-old granddaughter Amory Leboeuf at East St. John High. (Lori Lyons/L’OBSERVATEUR)

“We’re very appreciative,” Matt said. “There normally are quite a few children who go. We also go to the site at LaPlace Elementary. We just come here because my son is playing football here. When I’m in LaPlace, I bring other kids from the neighborhood with me.”

More than 1,000 free summer meals were served last year to children and teenagers across St. John the Baptist Parish, and organizers would love to serve more this year. The Health and Human Services program offers the free, nutritious meals to those 18 and younger.

The effort began Monday and lasts through July 13 at numerous East and West Bank locations.

St. John Health and Human Services Director Rhonda Lemons has a simple message for those wondering if they qualify for the free program.

“Anybody in the parish who wants children to be fed should come by,” she said. “If there is a daycare or another program around the parish, they are invited to drive their kids to the sites so they can eat.”

Breakfast is served from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays at LaPlace Elementary, 393 Greenwood Drive in LaPlace; East St. John High, 100 Airline Highway in Reserve; and New Wine Kitchen, 1931 West Airline Highway in LaPlace.

Lunches are served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays at West St. John Elementary, 2555 Louisiana 18 in Edgard; LaPlace Elementary; East St. John High, Garyville/Mt. Airy Math & Science Magnet, 240 Louisiana 54 in Mt. Airy; and New Wine Kitchen.

Lemons said the Parish went through an employment process that included posting job openings in April and vetting each position from bus monitors to site clerks to cooks.

“Everyone who works with children has to go through a background check,” she said. “They have to be finger printed and drug screened. We have to be mandated reporters. Our intentions are to employ young people who need summer employment to bridge the gap for families.”

According to Parish officials, five sites served 1,209 meals in 2016. Children do not need to provide proof of residency.

Lemons said the high school was chosen as a site because it is hosting summer school, but she stresses the program is not only for summer school and parish recreation children. In an effort to expand its service, organizers reached out to St. Charles Catholic, Riverside Academy and St. Joan of Arc Catholic School to promote the program.

“A lot of times it’s the kids who are practicing band, football or whatever who come eat after and before their practices,” Lemons said. “It’s open to all kids in the parish, 18 and under.”

For more information, contact Angela Aubert, the SFSP coordinator at 985-536-4955.

— By Stephen Hemelt & Lori Lyons