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Free summer lunch program starts for children

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Jun 10 2013 05:57:29 PM MDT
Updated On: Jun 10 2013 06:16:52 PM MDT
BELGRADE, Mont. -

Many kids across Montana got a free lunch Monday afternoon. It's part of the Department of Agriculture's "Summer Meals" program.

NBC Montana stopped by a Belgrade park to learn more about the program and see who is taking advantage it.

It didn't take us long to spot the kids at Hollensteiner park in Belgrade. We saw what looked like about 40 children enjoying the free lunch.

"We want to offer an opportunity to help families save and extend their food budget," said Lyra Leigh-Nedbor, the Childhood Nutrition Program Coordinator for the Gallatin County food bank.

She explained that while the summer is a fun and stress-free time for kids, it can put a strain on parents.

"With a free meal it offers them an opportunity to spend money elsewhere," she said.

Organizers of the program said lunches like this are important to families during the summer when buying food can be expensive.

Leigh-Nedbor explained, "Especially with kids out of school, it can be challenging when they are offered free meals at school."

Food isn't the only free service at the park either.

"We have a really interesting, fun mix of activities. They're all free to whoever wants to come down," Leigh-Nedbor said.

Program organizers said lots of other organizations are taking part in the program to make sure kids have educational and fun things to do, like the Belgrade Community Library, the fire station, and a farm-to-school program.

The summer meals program aims to create an environment that's fun and safe. It is open to anyone under the age of 18.

We double checked the "Summer Meals" program and found locations in almost 20 locations across southwest Montana.

The bigger cities include Kalispell, Missoula, Whitefish, Bozeman and Butte.

Families can learn more or find a site near them by going to www.mfbn.org/summerfoodmt or calling 1-800-809-4752. You can also text "lunch" to 877-877 to find the nearest site.