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NL Lunch Program Serves 2,500 Meals

NORTH LIBERTY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - When kids are home from school for the summer, food budgets for parents can nearly  double.

It's one reason why the city of North Liberty kicked off a free Summer Lunch and Fun program this year, and served more than 2,500 meals over the 2014 season. They averaged 60 kids every day.

The large numbers are due in part to the fact that the program did nothing to limit who could come and eat. Many free lunch programs require people to meet certain income requirements to participate, but the organizers didn't want to limit who could participate, said North Liberty assistant city administrator Tracey Mulcahey.

That meant a lot of fun and new friendships for kids of all ages, like 10-year-old Paris Campbell, who walked away from a balloon artist with a fancy new hat and a big smile on her face.

"I think it's a fun way for kid sto have fun and they can eat some good stuff for their bodies," she said.

The program focused on providing healthy meals and engaging activities, and Mulcahey said the goal was to create community, not just shell out food.

That went a long way for Qwandra Wilcoxon. She has five kids and just moved to Iowa from Chicago to attend law school.

"This really helps me out. I'm with so many kids, still unpacking boxes, you know, trying to fin dmy way to every grocery store. This really, really meant a lot to me," Wilcoxon said.

And it meant a lot to those who organized the program, too. The North Liberty Unity Council spent five years working on the program. It is funded entirely through donations with no money allocated from the city.

"This has really restored my faith in humanity. I mean, it really has. I just had somebody tel lme this was the reason they stayed in North Liberty. They were looking at moving because they felt challenged by a lot of things, and this program came up and -- this gives me goosebumps -- reassured them of the value of the community has and (they) made the decision to stay because of this program," Mulcahey said.

It only reaffirmed Wilcoxon's decision, who said she will be back next year.

"Come to the lunch program opened my eyes up to North Liberty," she said.

Interested families should keep an eye out for information about next year, Mulcahey said.
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