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Kids served free meals in June
Adults pay little to join
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For the second year, the Dawson County School System is offering free lunches this month to all children.

Funded through the National School Lunch Program and sponsored by the Georgia Department of Education, the program is offered to systems with high percentages of students who eat free and reduced lunch during the school year.

Free lunch is being served at Robinson Elementary, Black's Mill Elementary and Rock Creek Park from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday until June 30.

"There is definitely a need," said Linda Byrd, director of school nutrition for Dawson County Schools. "It's not as bad as inner city areas but there are kids in need and I do feel we are meeting that need through this program."

All students 18 and younger are eligible - including those who do not eat free and reduced lunch during the school year. Students with disabilities 21 and younger are also eligible.

Plus, adults can eat for $3 per meal, Byrd noted.

"The program is going well and it's exciting to see the kids coming," she said.

This year's program added an hour to serving times because of the influx of people last summer. However, the Salem United Methodist Church location has been closed due to little participation. Byrd said it might be because it's in its first year and the community wasn't aware.

The Dawson Forest fire department location, also new, won't be open until later this month. It looks to provide food for the 60 to 70 students participating in the Junior Fire Academy.

The program is offered in schools with more than 50 percent of the student population being on free and reduced lunch.

In October 2010, Robinson Elementary School hit the 50-percent mark.

Recently, Black's Mill and Riverview elementaries also qualified. Kilough Elementary is on the edge with 48 percent of its students receiving free or reduced meals.

On May 25, the school system received a $3,000 grant from the Georgia Food Bank that it is using to send a bus to the Kilough Elementary area to pick-up kids to take to Black's Mill, Byrd reported.

Many other school systems utilize the program all summer long. However, Dawson County schools have not yet reached that point.

Byrd said next year if participation, currently at 600 people per week, increases to 1,100 then they may expand the program through July.

RIC-Rack and local churches are assisting as well. At the end of the month, the organizations plan to hand out meal bags to offset July's needs.

For more information, call Byrd at (706) 265-3246, or visit