Elmore County Public Schools celebrated the kickoff of its Break for a Plate summer feeding program on Tuesday, June 1, at Wetumpka Middle School.

City and school district leaders, teachers, administrators, Child Nutrition Program employees and students were present to help celebrate the kickoff of the service that benefits local children and their families.

Break for a Plate, which is federally-funded and administered through the state, helps ensure that all Alabama children can continue to receive nutritious meals throughout the summer break by offering free meals to any child 18 years old and under. The program will run from June 1 to July 27.

CNP director Cacyce Davis said Elmore County Schools will give out meal kits one day per week, but each bag will contain enough food for seven days.

Every Tuesday from 5-6:30 p.m. families can pick up a meal kit at one of five locations: Wetumpka Middle School, Holtville Middle School, Redland Elementary School, Eclectic Middle School and Coosada Elementary School.

The kits will contain at least 6 pounds of fresh produce, most of which will be Alabama grown. The first-week meal kits also featured Johnsonville Sausage, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Cheez-It Crackers, Austin Peanut Butter Crackers and a gallon of milk.

The meal served to students at the kickoff event featured beef from cows that were raised by students in Wetumpka High School's agriculture program. The meal also included products from Elmore County-based Blue Ribbon Dairy and Beyond Harvest, an Alabama food co-op located in Phenix City.

"This summer's theme is 'Eat fresh, Elmore,'" Davis said. "We're encouraging students and their families to eat healthy while supporting local farmers in Elmore County and throughout the state. We've also issued a challenge to students. Every day they're supposed to eat fresh fruits and veggies, drink water and exercise and read for at least 20 minutes."

Davis said 60 CNP employees have agreed to forgo their summer break in order to make sure those in need get fed this summer.

Last summer, the district served as many as 9,000 kids per week through its feeding program. Davis expects the load to be about the same this year.

Allowing families to take their meals home is one aspect of the program that began last year in response to COVID. In the past, kids were required to eat their meals on-site. It's one aspect of the COVID requirements that Davis hopes will remain in place. It is the responsibility of the U.S. Congress to decide on the rules regarding child nutrition programs.

"It's allowed us to break down barriers and improve access for those who really need it," Davis said. "Taking the meals home also encourages families to eat more meals together."