Each day hundreds of meals are served at school cafeterias in Newton — in July.
Two school lunch rooms are open this summer as part of the Kids Summer Food and Activities Program — Sunset Elementary and Cooper Education Center.
Each day there are about 280 meals served.
“We are feeding more than 200 between the two sites for lunch,” said Sue Elder, program coordinator.
Elder said the economic downturn of the decade has caused more families to be stretched financially —the program is serving more families than in the recent past.
“We are seeing more young families,” Elder said. “I’m sure there is a need financially. If you have three, four or five kids it can make a difference coming here.  It’s the increased need due to economic
situations. It is a great savings for some people.”
The doors will close on the 2011 meal program Friday, as will the activity component.  
Approximately 35 children  signed up to take part in activities between meals. They are participating in PE activities like the parachute, reading books, presentations from community organizations arts and crafts, and more.
The meal program is funded by the USDA, and makes use of volunteers to help keep program costs at a minimum. Volunteers help supervise set-up, clean-up, handwashing, etc. and assist and interact with the kids that come for meals. The schedule is very flexible, and volunteers sign up for as many or as few days and times that fit their schedules.
“I volunteer because I like being with kids,” said volunteer Norm Lichti. “This program allows me to be with kids and help out with an important service at the same time.”
Despite the use of volunteer help, the program is not immune to budget cuts. This year the program was unable to offer bussing to lunch sites from other schools in Newton.
That might have curbed participation a bit, but the final numbers on meals served will not be available until next week.
“Since we don’t have bussing, kids have to walk here or be brought by their parents,” Elder said.