Staff and volunteers prepare food Tuesday as students arrive to take part in Delaware City Schools’ summer lunch program at Woodward Elementary. As part of the program, students are provided a nutritious lunch five days a week as well as given bags of food for the weekend. Pictured (left to right) are Schultz Elementary cook/cashier Angie Majka, Dempsey cook/cashier Joyce Bolton, Ohio Wesleyan finance student and volunteer Giovanna Lacarrubba, head cook Liz Bertsch, and Director of Food Service Sally Rathje.

Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

Delaware City Schools’ free summer lunch program, which began earlier this week, provides children with a free meal every day through the end of July.

The program is held every week day from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Woodward Elementary School and provides students with a nutritious lunch complete with fruits, vegetables and milk. The program also provides weekend meal bags to families to cover Saturday and Sunday.

Director of Food Service Sally Rathje said 78 children came to the first lunch program on Monday, and the number fluctuates throughout the summer.

“It gets less by the end of the summer, but in the beginning, it’s very popular,” Rathje said. “They can’t wait to come in. It’s a nice program. It’s important because there’s a lot of food insecurity in the summertime. Sometimes this is their most nutritious meal of the day. Kids in the summertime snack a lot, and their snacking is not fruits and vegetables.”

Rathje said aside from sandwiches every Tuesday, all the meals are hot. As for the menu, it repeats on a three-week rotation. The program is closed on June 19 as well as July 3 and 4 for the holidays.

The students get more out of the program than just a meal,” Rathje said.

“The kids have a nice network with their friends,” she added. “They don’t (have to) miss seeing them. You can see the kids really enjoying the lunch and the conversations.”

Rathje said that incoming-kindergarteners will have a chance to get to know their fellow kindergarteners before the start of the school year, and thanks to support from Andrews House, the program is also now able to provide a meal to parents as well after they saw that parents were hungry as well.

“It’s very hard (for parents) to watch a child eat if they’re hungry, too,” Rathje said.”That’s a wonderful program, too. Anything the community donates is great.”

Rathje added the program would not be possible without the work of volunteers.

“We have lots of people volunteering because it’s an important program that makes us happy to see them so happy,” she said.”It makes the most difference on the inside. Your heart goes out to these kids. It’s not work any longer.”

More information about the program can be found at, and donations can be arranged by contacting Rathje at 740-833-1866 or at [email protected].

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.