SEBRING - They are free, close by, nutritionally balanced and ready to eat at breakfast and lunch.
They are the summertime meals served up by the School Board of Highlands County's Food and Nutrition Department.
The school district's Summer Food Service Program serves free breakfast and lunch for children 18 and under at a number of school and non-school sites in the county.
At the Fred Wild Elementary cafeteria, Matthew Desrosiers took his time Monday eating a turkey hoagie for lunch. He had pulled the slice of American cheese out of the roll.
"I like cheese, but I don't like this kind of cheese," he said.
Along with the sandwich, students had a mixed fruit cup, a 4-ounce carton of grape juice and an 8-ounce carton of fat-free chocolate milk with vitamin A and D.
Jay Williams, 11, said he liked the sausage biscuit for breakfast, but he didn't want to eat his turkey and cheese hoagie at lunch.
"I drink milk and juice," he said. "I am not hungry at all."
Food Service Manager Dalne Kennedy said the Fred Wild Elementary cafeteria served about 350 meals Monday.
It will be a busy week with the week-long vacation Bible school, along with the summer reading classes, she noted. Plus, each day they get about five to 10 "walk ups" who are not part of a school program.
Teacher Janet Harris said her students eat breakfast in the cafeteria from 8 to 8:20 and then go to the classroom.
After working hard in class, the students look forward to their 30-minute lunch period, which starts at 11:50 a.m., she said.
"They can't wait to eat," Harris said. "That might be the highlight of their day."
Food Service Area Manager Barbara Haywood said hot meals are served Tuesday through Thursday.
In June the hot meals include pork rib-b-que sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken tenders and chicken nuggets.
The week starts and ends with a cold sandwich, which is not the most popular, she noted. "If we served them chicken nuggets every day they would be some happy campers."
The school sites, which accept walk-ups, include: Avon, Park, Cracker Trail, Fred Wild, and Memorial elementary schools, the Kindergarten Learning Center and Sebring High School.
Breakfast and lunchtimes vary by location, for example at Avon and Fred Wild elementary schools breakfast is served 7:45 - 9 a.m. and lunch is served 10:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., at Park Elementary breakfast is served 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. and lunch is served 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 a.m.
About 14 non-school sites are participating as "open sites," which means they will provide breakfast and lunch meals to all children in the immediate vicinity in addition to those enrolled in summer school programs. The non-school "open sites" include the Boys & Girls Club in Avon Park and Sebring and select preschool/day care locations and churches.
The final day of the program at most sites is Aug. 2.
The School Board Food and Nutrition Department notes that occasionally sites may not offer meal service due to being off site for field trips.
Meals are served on weekdays. No meals will be served on the Fourth of July.
For more information or to check availability of meal service at a site, call the Food Service Office at 471-5676 and speak with Barbara Haywood or Martha Brown.