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BEND, OR -- Local school districts are making sure kids maintain good nutrition over the summer. "We have a variety of free lunch sites in Bend and in La Pine, and I know other districts in the region do the same thing," says Ensworth Elementary Principal Dana Arntson. "Free lunch sites are for anyone up to the age of 18, you don’t have to even be a student in our school district, so if you have family or friends visiting, you can go to any of these sites and get a free lunch."

 

Arntson tells KBND News, the district is also helping kids' brains stay engaged over summer break. "At some of our sites in Bend and one in La Pine we also, starting Monday, offer a recreational reading program for children, so that they can come and eat lunch and they can sit and read some books. We have a teacher and an educational assistant, and in some cases, other community partners that come and work with us for two hours in the middle of the day." Those reading sites include Ensworth and Elk Meadow Elementary schools, Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park and Orchard Park in Bend, and Finley Butte Park in La Pine. 
 
It's about keeping learning fun, "We need it to not seem like school. We’ve got blankets, and the books are usually laid out in the grass and in all cases the program is outside, so kids can sit in the park and read a book. We work with Commute Options, so there are times the kids can also work on bike safety at some of these programs. We work with therapy dogs – Pet Partners – and in some locations, kids can actually read to a certified therapy dog." Click HERE for a list of free lunch and "Lunch and Learn" sites in Bend, La Pine and Sisters. 
 
A Similar "Eat. Read. Play" program is also available in Redmond at the library and Sam Johnson Park. Click HERE to access Redmond's list of free lunch sites.
 
To hear our full conversation with Dana Arntson, including more tips on keeping kids' brains engaged over summer, visit our Podcast Page

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