The saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but for anyone under 18 on Tucson’s south side, that might not hold true.

Southside Community School has initiated a new program to provide free meals to children under 18 during the month of June.

This initiative, funded by federal Title I funds, offers breakfast and lunch to any child, regardless of enrollment at the school.

Principal Brian Johnson emphasized the significance of this program in addressing food security and supporting the community.

“We’ve had lunch programs before for the summer,” said Johnson. “But this is the first year we are offering meals to the wider community. Any child 18 years or younger can come on campus and get breakfast and lunch.”

The meals, catered by local company Healthy Innovations, aim to provide nutritious options for the children.

“We’ve been with [Healthy Innovations] for at least two years,” Johnson said. “Lunch options range from salads to pizzas to hamburgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Breakfast includes lighter options like cereal, muffins, and sometimes breakfast burritos.”

Southside Community School, a charter institution serving kindergarten through eighth grade, has a high percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch during the school year.

The summer program extends that support.

“We are a Title I school, so most of our students are Title I students,” Johnson noted. “About 90% of the students are Title I, so most of the funding comes from that.”

Johnson highlighted the importance of providing these meals during the summer, a time when students might not have regular access to nutritious food.

“We want to continue to give those students those options to eat,” he said. “Some families, some parents may be working during the day, and the kids may not have time for food that’s being prepared or whatnot.”

The program runs from June 3 to June 28, with an estimated 50 students participating in the summer school.

Johnson hopes the community will take advantage of the program.

“We hope so, and that’s one thing that we’re starting to do, especially today, is continue to remind families and also on our social media to send that word out.”

Through the free meal program, Southside Community School aims to support the neighborhood and strengthen community ties.

“We want to make sure that families or people in this neighborhood or the community are able to know about us and what we can offer,” Johnson said.