Under one of the shady trees in the park next to the Manteca Boys and Girls Club at noon on Friday, Alex Dela Cruz and Geneva Coleman, both 8 years olds who attend George McParland Elementary School, munched on fresh baby carrots, chips, grape and hummus then washed them down with fortified chocolate milk.
Around them, under the same tree, enjoying picnic-style the same lunch meal were other students from their school and from Lincoln Elementary. Several yards away were other groups, also eating while basking in the sun and laughing with friends and classmates from the two campuses.
It was a scene repeated in nearly two-dozen other places in Manteca, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch in French Camp - scores of school children between the ages of 2 and 18 - availing themselves with the free sack lunch provided each year through the Summer Feeding Program of the Manteca Unified School District Nutrition Services.
The federally funded nutrition service is provided Monday to Friday through August 6, except on the Fourth of July, at the various sites.
Last year, we averaged about 1,200 meals a day. This year, we are up to 2,000 a day. We are serving at 13 parks in Manteca, three in Lathrop, one in French Camp, and four in Weston Ranch, said Manteca Unified Nutrition Service Supervisor Stephanie Huff.
The most popular of the lunch locations are the Manteca Library Park because of the interactive water feature there which is a magnet to children especially during the hot days of summer, and at the Lincoln Park because of the pool there, Huff said.
While the free sack lunches are distributed at the sites where the children can enjoy the food and interact with other students, participants also can simply stop by and pick up the lunch meals to take home and eat. However, McParland School Nutrition Services staff Kathy Martino said, We encourage them to eat at the park where they enjoy some sunshine.
They can also run and play and exercise at the park, added Sequoia School Nutrition Services employee Natalie Garcia.
The lunch meals are delivered to the various sites in white vans with the Manteca USD - Nutrition Services logo on its sides.
There is no registration or ID required for the children to avail of the free meals. However, children can receive only one lunch per day and must be present at the site at the time specified.
For information on how to be part of the program, contact the Nutrition Services at 858-0778.
Summer Feeding Program sites and hours, Monday to Friday
Mayors Park, 1440 Kelley Drive (11-11:30 a.m.)
Lincoln Park, 245 S. Powers Ave (11-11:30 a.m.)
Raymus Park, 5888 E. Apache Drive (11-11:30 a.m.)
Library Park, 320 W. Center St. (11-11:30 a.m.)
Southside Park, 409 Oregon St. (11:40 a.m.-12:10 p.m.)
Northgate Park, 1750 Hoyt Lane (11:45 a.m. -12:15 p.m.)
Shasta Park, 955 E. Edison Ave. (11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Springport Park, 746 Pestana Ave (11:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.)
Sequoia Park, 868 Wawona St. (12:20-12:50 p.m.)
Villa Ticino Park, 1970 Geneva Way (12:30-1 p.m.)
Sandpiper Village, 1820 Pennybaker Way (12:30-1 p.m.)
Boys and Girls Club, 545 W. Alameda St (12:30-1 p.m.)
*Union West Park, 1291 Parkview St. (1-1:30 p.m.)
Lathrop Community Center at Valverde Park, 15557 Fifth St. (8:30-9 a.m. (breakfast; lunch 12:30-1 p.m.)
Apolinar Sangalang Park (behind Joseph Widmer School), 13470 Slate St. (11-11:30 a.m. lunch)
Woodfield Park, 801 Lathrop Road (11:45-12:15 p.m. lunch)
In French Camp:
Good Shepherd Mission Church, 305 E. French Camp Road (11-11:30 a.m.)
In Weston Ranch (Stockton):
Weston Ranch Library, 1453 French Camp Road (11-11:30 a.m.)
Smith Park, 2606 William Moss Blvd (11:40 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.)
Paul E. Weston Park, 3602 EWS Woods Blvd. (12:20-12:50 p.m.)
Lon gPark, 4535 Woodchase Lane (1-1:30 p.m.)
Contact Rose Albano Risso at email@example.com or at (209) 249-3536.