The goal of the summer meal program in Goodhue County schools is to help children find a consistent, healthy option almost every day.

After serving upwards of 50,000 meals this summer, districts did just that. Cannon Falls, Lake City, Red Wing and Zumbrota-Mazeppa all served breakfast and lunch to their respective districts.

“When I did my projections … I was thinking it was going to be 48,000,” said Brenton Lexvold, the Red Wing School District food service director.

Red Wing served almost 34,000 meals across its various sites this year. The previous summer, the district served almost 37,000 meals. Lexvold said if they had the same amount of days last year (64) as they did this year (58), they would’ve eclipsed the 37,000 meals mark easily.

It was a “pie-in”the-sky” local goal to hit, but losing a site, having one site not reach its projection by a large mark, and having fewer days to operate may seem like a big miss for the district — it wasn’t.

The district was up nine meals a day, according to Lexvold, who said he was pleased with the overall numbers.

Lexvold, who has overseen the program since 2013, said it was difficult to start because of the need for local business sponsors and volunteers.

In 2014, the sites served slightly fewer than 1,500 lunches. Even in 2017, the district was serving nearly 16,000 meals. Being at almost 34,000 meals has taken a lot of effort, not only from the district but the community as well, Lexvold acknowledged.

The Cannon Falls School District served 15,250 meals between breakfast and lunch programs over 57 days. Last year, the district estimated staff and volunteers served 230 meals per day. This year, the district averaged 267 meals served per day.

Lori Hanson, an executive assistant to the superintendent and human resources, said in an email they will continue to serve meals at the elementary cafe next summer.

Brian Wright oversees the food programs of the Lake City and Zumbrota-Mazeppa districts. The Z-M summer program is in its second year and grew more than Wright anticipated.

Z-M served 10,383 meals between breakfast and lunch at the Middle-High School in Zumbrota over a 50-day period. Wright said more people in the community were aware of the offering, with everyone from child care to high school athletes coming in.

Wright helped to establish the Z-M program and got the Lake City program off the ground this year. In its first year, the district served 4,118 meals over 45 days.

It’s difficult to attract students to a new program, Wright said. Add in construction to Bluff View Elementary School and it could seem like the Lake City program didn’t do well.

That’s not the case, Wright said. Just as with Z-M, the Lake City program’s numbers will increase once word begins to spread. Also, the construction at Bluff View will conclude, giving the district a new cafeteria to serve area kids next summer.

Wright said he is always looking for volunteers to help throughout the summer, calling them “the life blood of a program like this.”