The Union R-XI School District will offer free lunch and dinner to children and teens 18 and younger this summer.

The program starts July 10 and runs through Aug. 4. Lunches and dinners will be offered at the Union City Park large pavilion from 12 to 1 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. The meals will be offered to anyone 18 and younger, whether they are a district student or not.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Mabe, who handles oversight on the district’s food services, said the district applied for the Summer Food Service Program when applications were being completed for the program that allows summer school students to receive free breakfast and lunch.

“We’re just trying to put food on the plate for people who maybe have some struggles or may not have the means to get those meals,” Mabe said.

The Summer Food Service Program, which is funded through reimbursement by the Missouri Department of Health, helps assure eligible populations have access to nutritious meals during the summer months.

For the district to participate in the program, 50 percent of its students needed to be eligible for free and reduced lunch district-wide. Mabe said that wasn’t true of all schools, meaning the site would need to be placed near Central Elementary and Clark-Vitt, two eligible schools.

Mabe said he has hopes the location’s proximity to the city’s swimming pool and schools will draw teenagers and children.

The program offers a good opportunity for the school district to stay active in students’ lives even when they are not at school, he said.

“Summertime means food, friends and fun. For families who count on school meals, however, the summer months can be stressful and family food budgets have to be stretched even further,” a letter to parents says.

There is no paperwork required for the meals. Teenagers and children 18 and under need only to visit the pavilion during the allotted time to receive a free meal.

“It’s something new,” Mabe said. “We’re very excited to spearhead it.”