Members of Milford’s community proved that there is such a thing as a free lunch. Special education teacher Carrie Maple said she wondered what would happen to children over the summer who relied on the school’s meal plan.
Maple said she expressed her concern to the head lunch coordinator at Milford High School, Dawnia Ramirez. Ramirez helps coordinate free dinners on Thursday nights with Milford Mennonite Church. Maple said she thought Ramirez would be the perfect person to help put her plan in motion.
“We started out with just a sack lunch the first time on a Wednesday. We got to talking and I was like, I would love to be able to serve a warm meal where they could get a plate and sit down and have some social time together,” Maple said.
Maple coordinated with others in the community to start a schedule for the lunches. They decided on sack lunches on Wednesdays and hot lunches on Fridays.
Maple’s daughter had just graduated high school and she had a waffle bar at her graduation party. Maple said she figured she would just make waffles and bring them to the park. She said they had a great turn out.
After that Maple got to work on a meal plan. She said members of churches, schools and others in the community were more than willing to help put on the lunches.
Kelli Keib wanted to help with advertising the lunches, so she took to social media to let parents know when the lunches would be held.
Maple sent group texts to fellow teachers to see if they could provide sides so the kids could have a balanced meal.
“That’s one thing about the staff at the school, they’re always so willing to help,” Maple said.
Businesses were happy to help, too. Maple said the staff at Pizza Kitchen gave her a discounted rate for the hot meals on Fridays. Maple also worked with Dairy Queen and Food Net.
Maple hosts Bible studies with her friends who all belong to different churches. Maple said when she told her friends about the lunches, they asked members of their church congregations to donate. She said that because of the generous contributions they were able to provide more hot meals such as walking tacos and pizza for their Friday meals.
Beth-El, Milford Mennonite, Bellwood Mennonite, Good Shepherd and the Methodist Church in Milford have all contributed to the free lunches.
For Friday meals, teachers Leah Albers, Emely Hendl and Shelly Richards came to Maple’s house, made the food together and took it to the park.
Maple said the best part about providing the lunches is seeing the kids socializing with each other.
“A lot of times they stay and play or they make plans to go to the pool and different things like that. That’s been the part of it that we weren’t expecting that’s been pretty cool,” Maple said.
With an average turnout of around 50 kids, Maple said she fully intends to provide free lunches again next summer.