Fort Wayne & NE Indiana News

The latest positive news written by residents and organizations in our community.
Family   |   Government

Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department Expanding Free Food Service For Youth

The Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department served over 90,000 free meals to youth, ages 5 – 18, in 2015 and now plans to start providing more. In conjunction with the beginning of the Department’s weekday summer programming which runs June 6 – July 29, breakfast will be served at four additional playground sites: Hamilton, Lafayette, Lakeside and Packard Parks. The breakfasts will consist of 1 serving of milk (when refrigeration is available), 1 serving of fruit or vegetables and 1 serving of whole grain. It’s anticipated that up to 10,000 more breakfasts will be served this year. Breakfast, lunch and a snack have been provided at Jennings, Cooper and Weisser Community Centers and Memorial Park for over twenty years. McMillen Park Community Center was added to the list when it opened in 2014.

“Each of the four summer playground sites we’re adding average 54 kids per day. Those children should have the same opportunity to eat a nutritious morning meal as the other children we serve,” said Parks & Recreation Director Al Moll. “We tend to promote the recreational and educational components of our safe haven sites. This nutritional component is just another way we provide a safe atmosphere, as well as an opportunity to strengthen social skills. The kids dine together in a family-like atmosphere.”

The Parks & Recreation Department partners with Community Harvest Food Bank to provide breakfasts in the summer, as well as meals throughout the school year and partners with Fort Wayne Community Schools to provide lunches and snacks at all nine sites throughout the summer. The increased demand of meals served, which led to increased documentation and compliance, made it necessary for the Department to centralize the Food Service program under one organization unit which is managed and coordinated by Costella Mack, the Food Service Supervisor.

The Parks & Recreation Department purchases food from Community Harvest Food Bank at a very low cost, sometimes free, to provide the following additional Food Service programs:

Kid’s Café: During the school year, on snow days and during school vacations, children are served a free, hot meal at Jennings, Cooper, Weisser and McMillen Park Community Centers. The program incorporates an educational component as well. Children help prepare the food, learning about nutrition and safety guidelines and employ reading and math skills when working with recipes. Jennings Recreation Center was the pilot program for Kid’s Café in 1998.

Backpack Program: Every Friday during the school year, children receive nonperishable items like cereal, rice, macaroni and cheese, canned goods and granola bars, to take home with them to supplement weekend meals at home.

Special Event Food Service: Food is served at all of the special events, including holiday celebrations and festivals, held throughout the year at our youth centers and in our parks.

When preparing and serving meals, the Department follows guidelines established by the USDA Food & Nutrition Services.

Children ages 5 – 18 are invited to spend their summer vacation at one of our safe haven playgrounds or youth centers through July 29, Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm. There will be activities for everyone, including sports, crafts, games and enrichment. Or, children ages 7 – 18 who would like to learn the lifetime skills of tennis, golf and swimming, are invited to attend the Lifetime Sports Academy at McMillen Park through July 22.

For more information about the Summer Playground Program, the Neighborhood Recreation Center Program, McMillen Park Community Center or the Lifetime Sports Academy, call the Parks & Recreation Department at 260-427-6000 or visit