HOPE – The LeadAr Class 19 of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension Services literally ate up the program presented at Yerger Middle School recently by Hope Public Schools Child Nutrition Director Deanna Gilbert.
Provided with lunch by nutrition services workers from HPS food services vendor Aramark Food Services, directed by Sandra Calhoun, the members of the group from across business, academic, agriculture and rural enterprise in Arkansas sampled a student lunch at the YMS cafeteria.
Gilbert said because more than 80 percent of the HPS student population is eligible for free or reduced breakfast and lunch, the district participates in the federal Community Eligibility Program. She said the program allows the district to provide breakfast and lunch free of charge to all students.
“I’ve had one grandmother raising seven grandkids on her own,” Gilbert said. “She couldn’t feed them all.”
She said the district emphasizes good nutrition to ensure student health both during the academic year and through the summer. Gilbert said meals are provided free of charge to any child under age 18 during the HPS Summer Meals Program.
The meals are “grab and go” style, she said.
The program is operated from the Yerger bus line June 7 to Aug. 6, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon; June 7-24 and July 5-22 in the Hope High School cafeteria at 11:45 a.m. Monday through Thursdays; and June 7 through July 2 in the Clinton Primary School cafeteria at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Fridays.
Gilbert said the program has access to a used school bus which has been converted into a traveling activity center for use in the program during the summer.
“Doctor Hart got us the bus and the Rotary Club got us an air conditioner for it,” she said. “I’m hoping we can get back to normal next year.”
Gilbert noted the new interior design to the YMS cafeteria, part of a retooling of the food services program at each campus.
“The kids love it,” she said. “We try to make it nice and it helps them feel comfortable.”
Gilbert has recently taken on the role of director of the Hope Farmer’s Market, which opens each Tuesday at The Hub at the intersection of Second and Elm streets in downtown Hope. She said one of her goals is to broaden a locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables partnership between the Farmer’s Market and the HPS.
Part of that effort extends to the Denny’s Place Outdoor Classroom at the Hope Academy of Public Service, Gilbert said. The project commemorates the support to agriculture education from former school board member the late Denver “Denny” Dickinson, she said.
Gilbert said HAPS students mentored by the Hempstead County Master Gardeners program have developed a serviceable garden on the campus which provides fresh vegetables for the cafeteria.
The district also provides free meals for students in the Kids College program of the University of Arkansas-Hope.
“We are feeding students and giving them something fun to do,” Gilbert said.