Free meals at McPolin combine food and fun |

Free meals at McPolin combine food and fun

Kristina Eastham, Record contributing writer

Non-profit organizations often host community events. But this event has been bringing together Holy Cross Ministries, Valley Mental Health, the Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center, Girl Scouts of America and Park City’s Historical Museum and the public library this summer.

The McPolin free lunch program has more than enough participating organizations now it just needs more participating kids.

McPolin Elementary teamed up with Holy Cross Ministries to provide free food and activities for kids in the community Monday through Thursday through July 30.

"We have the ability to feed 150 to 200," John Hall, the Vice Principal of McPolin said. However, the program is only averaging 50-60 kids and around 10 adults per day.

Through federal funding, the Park City School District’s food services provide lunch from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. to kids under 18 at the McPolin cafeteria, located at the back entrance to the school. Adults can also eat for $2.50, what Hall refers to as "the best deal in town." He said lunches are "well-balanced" and include a main course, pretzels or chips, vegetables, fruits and either chocolate or plain milk. On Monday, kids enjoyed hamburgers.

For the past two years, Holy Cross Ministries had operated their summer program in the McPolin building, but this year they moved that specific program off site and are teaming with McPolin to host a mid-day event that is open to the public.

"This is the first year that we’ve held it like this," Hall said, with a lunch open to everyone, followed by an activity.

The activities are hosted by various non-profits each day of the week: Holy Cross Ministries on Monday; Valley Mental Health and the Norwegian Outdoor Exploration Center on Tuesday; Girl Scouts of America on Wednesday; the Park City Library and the Park City Museum on Thursday. This Wednesday the Girls Scouts are planning an animal-themed art project. On Thursday, the Museum and Library will educate kids about Park City’s flora and fauna while they plant seeds in decorated pots.

From 12:30-1:30 p.m. kids can create crafts or play outdoor games including kickball, capture the flag, and water balloon tosses, as determined by participating organizations. Aimee Cunniff and Lindsey Schwartz from Holy Cross Ministries organize activities on Monday and also attend to provide supervision the remaining days of the week.

"Holy Cross Ministries decided we needed to start a summer lunch program to get healthy food in kids’ stomachs in the summer," Cunniff said.

Schwartz added that the socializing, activities and healthy food provided an alternative for kids who might be at home watching television and eating unhealthy meals.

Celia Ponce’s five-year-old son, Luis, attends school at McPolin Elementary during the school year, and they are drawn to the event by activities, free food, and the Thursday raffle. Kids earn "Miners Tickets" for various tasks that exemplify being helpful, respectful and responsible and place their ticket in a red box. On Thursdays, five winners are drawn and given prizes, also donated by participating organizations.

Cynthia Sandoval accompanied her daughter Ava, 6, to McPolin on Monday for their fourth or fifth visit to the McPolin lunch program.

"She wanted to come to the school lunch room and see her friends," Sandoval said. Ava has participated in making friendship bracelets, stained glass window hangers and played safety bingo. But her favorite activity was creating beaded jewelry.

According to Cunniff, mostly elementary-school-aged children have been attending the program but it is open to anyone under 18. She encourages anyone, especially older children, to come "even to be an influence on younger kids in the community."

"We want to have fun and play for the rest of the summer," Cunniff said. "The more the merrier."

The McPolin Summer Lunch Program is open to the public Monday-Thursday through July 30, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. McPolin Elementary is located at 2270 Kearns Blvd.

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