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City Schools Serving Up Free Lunches Over Winter Break

Aired 12/20/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego Unified is serving free lunches at city recreation centers over the winter break.

— For the first time this year, San Diego Unified is serving free lunches at city recreation centers while schools are closed for winter break. The lunches started this week at recreation centers near schools where break has already started.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner talks with kids and parents eating lunch at the Tierrasanta Recreation Center, Dec. 19, 2012.

Just over 61 percent of San Diego Unified students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Over the summer, San Diego schools partner with city parks to provide free lunch for any child 18 or under in hopes of filling the gap left when school lunch isn’t available. The district’s head of food services, Gary Petill, said the district decided to expand the service to winter break because families have the trouble making ends meet during shorter breaks in the school year.

“We feel there’s a need, a real need for families, especially during the holidays, because a lot of children and parents really depend on school food during the week,” he said.

The winter break lunches were piloted at a limited number of sites near year-round school last year. This year, lunches will be served at 21 sites until year-round schools reopen on January 14. Just like during the summers, lunch is free for any child 18 or under.

A handful of parents and children came to the Tierrasanta Recreation Center for lunch Wednesday and 6-year-old Danny Masterson was happy with his turkey sandwich and the raisins, cucumbers and milk that came on the side.

He said he’d be happy to come back for more lunches before school starts again "because it’s healthy.”

Families ate with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who said the city should help publicize the free lunches so more families can take advantage of them.

Sites are prepared to serve lunch to about 40 kids each day.

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