A new food program at Colcord Public Schools has become an asset to not only students attending summer programs but the community as well.

"The summer food program is new for us," said Colcord Superintendent Bud Simmons. "It has not only fed our kids participating in the 21st Century program but staff that is working this summer as well."

The program is funded through the 21st Century grant program during July and the state reimbursement fund the school is on during the school year.

The meal were prepared in the elementary cafeteria in June and will run out of the high school cafeteria in July.

"That will make it a little more centrally located in July," said Simmons.

The program is free for any youth and adults can eat for a small price.

“Any kids 18 years or younger whether they attend Colcord schools or any other school or community can come eat through this program," Simmons said. "They can come onsite and eat for free. I eat in there everyday. Adults can eat for $6 a day, $2 for breakfast and $4 for lunch. You get full it is great food."

The program also gives cafeteria workers a chance to work during the summer.

“It gives them a shot in the arm as far as income for the summer instead of being off and finding an other source of income for the summer," said Simmons.

The program is not limited to students.

"We have had people from the community come and eat with us," Simmons said. "We have eight students working through Cherokee Nation this summer at the school and they get paid through Cherokee Nation and get to eat free while here working. It is a double bonus for them."

The food program also benefits the students at the school everyday working out through the summer pride program and other summer sports practices.

"When Coach Curtis Waltman has lifting and or summer pride of the morning or the basketball coaches John Sheehy and Mark Sherrill practices. Their players can come eat before and after practice and eat breakfast and lunch," Simmons explained. 

The meals became a team bonding thing for the football team recently.

"A couple of weeks ago we went to Locust Grove for football team camp and we ate breakfast before we left, and got back in time to eat lunch as a team. That was a great opportunity as a team event," Simmons said.

The summer food program is a USDA program and averages 80 students and adults per day.

"The program will end on July 28 and then we will have about a two week break and then we will begin school," Simmons said. "It will leave the kids in the community just a short time to not have a place to go eat."

When he began the program, Simmons had a couple things in mind.

"First to help serve our 21st Century program and one of the main things we want to do is with our students and our community is to meet them where their needs are," Simmons said. "Obviously everyone needs to have food and a way to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"That is one of the exciting things about the 21st Century grant is we can feed our students throughout the school day, another meal for the ones that stay after school.

"They get get three meals a day during the school year, five days a week and they only have to worry about feeding their kids on the weekend. That takes a huge burden off the families in the community."

Simmons said the summer program allowed him to extend the initiative beyond the school year.

"You hit summer vacation and all of a sudden the grocery bill goes up and it becomes a burden on some families," Simmons said. "But now we can help those families in the community and the grocery bill doesn’t go up so much. With our summer program families can come feed the kids for free."

There are no economic guidelines to be able to eat from the program.

"It is about feeding youth and making sure they have a source to get a good meal," Simmons said. "We are just trying to create relationships and serve the community."

Simmons knows the program is a good for families.

"It has been a blessing," he said.