Surge in free summer meals served to Yakima kids

Surge in free summer meals served to Yakima kids »Play Video

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Supply is meeting demand for free summer lunches this year. The number of meals being served has skyrocketed. A big reason for the increase is that there are more places to get them. KIMA spoke with one mother whose kids use the program.

Janessa and James eat lunch at Washington Middle School every day. The food is free. A big relief for mom, who's on a tight budget.

"At the house, there's not always a whole lot, and it helps," says Leah Ellingsworth.

Her kids are among thousands in the Yakima Valley.

In June, the Yakima School District served almost 17,000 breakfasts and lunches. That's more than double a year ago.

There was also a surge in Sunnyside. The district served almost 4,900 meals last month. That's up from 2,600.

Dan McLain administers the Yakima School District's program.

"It was surprising to to see how many are hungry, and how many kids actually come back and ask for seconds."

There are 20 different places to get the meals in Yakima.

Including a bus. Sort of a meals on wheels for kids. It makes four different stops everyday. I caught up with the bus at YPAL where kids grabbed burritos and sandwiches.

The Yakima School District pays for the meals up front. Then sends a bill to the federal government for reimbursement. The goal is to break even. Any surplus goes back into the program. Dan says it fills a major void.

"We've seen a lot of grandmothers come and they're babysitting the four or five kids while the parents or whoever's off working. And, where would they have all been eating?"

"My son likes fruit, so he's like, oh look, I got fruit today!" said Leah.

Music to Leah's ears. And, to thousands of other parents whose kids come home with a full belly.

Not all locations will serve meals through the end of August. You can get more information about the schedules and where to go by calling 1-888-436-6392 or by texting MEALS to 96859. You can also click here.