Breakfast in the Park making mornings fun, tasty
DANVILLE — Amanda Nardoni had heard about Quaker Oats' Breakfast in the Park program before, but Tuesday morning was the first time she took her four kids.
Now the breakfast in Danville's Lincoln Park may become a morning ritual this summer.
"It will be good to get them up and moving in the morning," Nardoni said with a laugh, as her children — Eli, Ben, Selah and Maggie — enjoyed their bowls of cereal, granola bars, fresh fruit, milk and juice at a picnic table.
This is the third year that Quaker Oats has been serving up free breakfasts to children, ages 4 to 12, in the park pavilion.
The program, which kicked off Monday, runs from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. weekdays through Aug. 23 with the exception of the week of July 1.
"It's taken off really well," Quaker's senior administrative assistant Misty Walker said, adding the program served nearly 3,000 breakfasts last year for a total of more than 5,000 since it started in 2011. "We're trying to get the word out to as many parents as we can that we're here so we can serve even more kids this year."
One of the largest employers in Danville, Quaker said it launched the program to help fight childhood hunger locally. About 77 percent of Danville schools students are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program, indicating the significant need, company officials said. When school is out of session during the summer, they said, accessing meals can be challenging, especially during difficult economic times.
Quaker decided to run the program in Garfield Park to serve primarily students at nearby Garfield Elementary School, although all children can participate.
"Garfield School doesn't have summer school at its building, so we thought this would be a great location," Walker said, adding more than 60 percent of Garfield students qualify for free and reduced meals.
Each day, breakfast is served by a group of Quaker retirees and family members, who volunteer their time. Then children can participate in a variety of health and wellness activities, coordinated by the United Way of Danville Area this year.
Jeanne Mulvaney, the agency's executive director, said a number of local businesses and community agencies are scheduled to teach kids about good nutrition, keeping active, home and personal safety, as well as offer activities such as reading, face painting and much more.
On Tuesday, Kim and Ray Fields, owners of Papa Murphy's Pizza in Danville, gave kids a lesson on the proper hand-washing technique, pretending to wash them for as long as it took to sing a song about pizza. Then they let them make their own individual cheese pie.
"We didn't know we would be getting lunch, too," Amanda Nardoni said to her daughters.