MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Come in from the heat, my friend and sit down beside me. Let me tell you about the finest lunch-time dining in the area this summer. The food is a delight to any palate and includes warm rolls made fresh daily and melt-in-your-mouth vegetables and fruits right off the farm.
Oh, and the service … the service is primo. Everyone at this little bistro is warm and kind and serves up your food with a smile.
Where is this place you ask? It’s right here aboard Camp Lejeune at Brewster Middle School with a “franchise” at the Tarrawa Terrace II Elementary School.
What’s that you say? Well, it’s the 18th annual Summer Food Service Program for Children, a program that offers free lunches to any child from preschool through age 18.
Adults are also able to dine with the kids while paying ala carte at very reasonable prices.
“It’s so great to have a way to get parents and kids together eating lunch. You see a dad and his son eating lunch over here and a mother and her children eating over there. It’s a relaxed environment and you have parents and kids talking to one another,” said Elizabeth Thomas, assistant superintendent of Camp Lejeune Department of Defense Education activity schools.
The lunches also fulfill another purpose as well. “For many children, summer vacation doesn’t mean ‘fun in the sun,’ but rather the possibility of increased hunger and developmental decline due to the loss of school supported meals.
Camp Lejeune Schools offers a potential solution to improve children’s summertime nutritional status,” said Jan Holt, director of food service for Camp Lejeune schools of the summer food service program. “The program is designed to bring nutritious meals to children during the summer months when school is not in session.”
The SFSPC was created in 1968 as a three-year pilot that provided grants to states to help provide meals for children when school was not in session. The program has grown over the years to include even more children and locations.
A special component of the Camp Lejeune program is the “farm to schools” element. Holt meets with local farmers, both during the school year and during the summer, and buys fresh produce for the school lunch program. The purchases include fresh cantaloupe, acorn squash, spring onions, tomatoes, green peppers, melons and, this time of year corn — in abundance.
“The children benefit as well as our local community and our growers,” said Holt. “This produce is not traveling across the United States — it’s traveling 20 miles and it’s served the same day or the next day when foods are right at the peak of their nutritional value.”
Marie Moore is the child nutrition manager for the SFSPC program at Brewster Middle School. She and her staff, as well as the staff at TTII Elementary, get up early each morning to make nutritional meals for the children. “I like this program because I love kids,” she said. “They’re my top priority. I like to make it like their home away from home when they come here. When they come here, they make my life enjoyable.”
For additional information about the program, call 450-1732.