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Charter school provides free meals, summer learning

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  July 13, 2011 10:22 AM

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This summer, a Hyde Park charter school is making free breakfasts and lunches available to any child under the age of 18.

Through the federally funded USDA Summer Food Service Program for Children, the Boston Renaissance Charter Public School offers free meals to all children, whether residents of Hyde Park or other communities. The meals program began on July 5, along with the school’s summer learning program, and will continue through Aug. 26.

Roger F. Harris, the school’s superintendent, said the federal support makes it possible to provide children with vital nutrition through the summer break and that he hopes to see more schools taking part.

“I just think it’s another example of something that can be and should be replicated across the city and in other cities,” Harris said. “It’s good to have kids in schools during the summer if possible and create recreation opportunities, and if you can feed them, that’s gravy on the potatoes.”

Harris said the free meals grew out of the school’s summer program for children from kindergarten to sixth grade. The school has participated in the federal program for five or six years, going back to its original location in Bay Village.

“It’s important for kids to be in a structured learning environment throughout the summer, so we’ve created opportunities for kids to learn and have fun, and at the same time,” Harris said, “and so many of our kids qualify for free and reduced lunch that it was just a natural that we investigate the free and reduced lunch program. And it turns out that the numbers worked so that we could become a site for the community.”

Harris said that while summer learning was important, it should also be enjoyable.

“We’re basically masquerading summer school, making it fun like a summer camp,” he said.

The summer program consists of two components: academics and enrichment. In the mornings, the children study language arts, math, and computer literacy, and in the afternoon there are activities such as dance, martial arts, and other physical activities, as well as further computer practice.

Regina Yapp, the coordinator for the program, said it is open to both students who attend Boston Renaissance during the school year and those who don’t. It currently has about 30 students who don’t attend the school, who come from Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Milton.

Just the other day, Yapp said, a mother saw students engaged in an activity outside the school and brought her two children inside to ask about the program. School employees gave the children lunch and showed their mother around. By the time she left, she had enrolled both children.

Boston Renaissance Charter Public School is located in Hyde Park at 1415 Hyde Park Ave. The school will serve the free meals through Aug. 26, with breakfast available each weekday morning from 8 – 9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 am – 1 p.m. For additional information, contact the school at 617-357-0900.

Outside the Hyde Park area, parents can call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE to find a participating school near them.

Email Jeremy C. Fox at jeremycfox@gmail.com.

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