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FREE MEALS: CAS serves 500 meals a day to Sierra Vista youth in the summer

Posted at 7:18 PM, Jun 07, 2024

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN) — Summer break is fun for kids, but unfortunately, it's a challenge for some parents who relied on free school lunches. Now, they have 10 more meals a week to plan for.

Center for Academic Success (CAS), in Sierra Vista, is feeding 500 kids a day this summer.

“We have a very big need," said Food Program Manager for CAS, Mina Villicana.

She says she's had students tell her they wouldn't have a balanced meal if it weren't for what the school provides.

"It breaks my heart,” Villicana said.

This summer she and her staff are feeding students in the summer school program, community members and the kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sierra Vista. Their third site is at First Baptist Christian Academy.

“There are a lot of folks that have food instability," said CAS Principal, Charles Bertram. "They aren't always able to access the funds to have meals, you know, as regular as they should be.”

The public charter has been participating in the state's summer food program for years. The program allows them to be reimbursed for breakfast and lunch they provide to children, 18 years old and younger.

“We're not like a city, we don't have tons of food banks, and other services to offer people, so we just hope we can be that kind of an asset," Bertram said. "We're going to build our budget every year to where this is a part of it.”

But the school isn't just feeding kids.

“We understand if mom and dad brings them over, well, how am I gonna see the little kiddos and not mom and dad?” Villicana said.

The school covers the cost of adults, including teachers, that are eating there, since the state program is just for kids. For Amber Anderson and her five kids the free meal program is a big help.

“It's a big stress relief, but it's like also just helps us be able to have something to do, because, you know, I'm trying to also get them to not watch too much TV, not have no screen time,” she said.

Anderson says she travels to Sierra Vista from Hereford to get a meal for the kids at least twice a week. She says she wishes more schools would participate since kids get their meals there most of the year.

“If we can do it, I don’t understand why other schools can’t,” Villicana said.

CAS will be serving meals through July 3. Click here to find a site a participating site.

Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing or by connecting on Facebook.