ALEXANDRIA — The cafeteria staff at Alexandria-Monroe Elementary School have learned to expect a lunchtime rush on Fridays.
Friday is pizza day. And kids love pizza, along with a serving of grapes and milk, the chocolate variety preferred. The corn that comes with it? Not so popular.
But the summer lunch program Alexandria-Monroe Community Schools, launched last month at the elementary school for the first time, has proven to be immensely popular with parent and kids alike, said cafeteria manager Amber Durbin.
"The parents that have come in say they're really glad that we've done it and have asked if we're going to do it again next year," she said.
Daily attendance has ranged from 45 meals served to 60. The higher number could be related to summer school classes, which are in full swing in the district.
When school officials decided to begin the program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Child Nutrition Program, they didn't know how well-attended the lunches would be, although they knew there was a community need.
The meal is open to anyone in Madison County up to age 18, and local day care providers were encouraged to bring their children to eat, Scott Deetz, principal of the school, said last month before the program launched.
Alexandria resident Kate Miller, the mother of nine children, including two-week old Benton, said visiting the school for lunch has been on their activity list. She was there with four of her children: Jami, Alexa, Marissa and Jackson. "We had to come because it was pizza day," she said.
On a more serious note, Miller said Alexandria has needed a program like this.
"I think it's excellent that we finally got something in our community that parents can bring their kids to because we didn't have anything before. And other communities have it, so it really gives an opportunity for parents who can't afford, or want to enjoy bringing their kids to the school to have a free lunch," she said. "I'm glad that Alexandria finally got it this year."