Free summer lunch program provides food and family time

By Sara Birrer, Shaylen Crook, Joel  Gregory and Natalia Taylor

                Spending time with one’s children can be difficult in this busy world. The summer lunch program in the Coos Bay School District helps many parents feed and spend time with their children.

From 11:15 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Blossom Gulch and Madison Elementary Schools, along with Marshfield High School, offer an opportunity for children under 18 to eat a free lunch. Parents often accompany their children and are also welcome to eat lunch for $2.

Malinda Eckley and her children, including daughter Hanah Eckley, are one of the many families who enjoy Blossom Gulch’s free lunch program.

“I get to come down and sit with my kids and they get to see all of their friends,” Malinda Eckley said.

According to Candice Cabudol, the head cook and supervisor and Blossom Gulch, each day about 80-100 people eat lunch at her location. Cabudol prepares the lunches at Blossom Gulch Monday through Friday with a smile.

“I love my job,” Cabudol said. “This is awesome.”

Her kind attitude does not go unnoticed by parents and their children. Cabudol’s own children, who eat lunch at Blossom Gulch each day, often bring her flowers and cookies when they come to lunch. Along with children, parents also notice her good attitude.

“She is always in a good mood,” Natalie Mathias said.

Mathias is a mother of six and comes to Blossom Gulch at least four times a week.  She takes this as a chance to spend more time with her kids and less time cleaning dishes.

One of the many reasons Blossom Gulch attracts children is the opportunity to play and exercise on the playground after lunch.

“We love the summer lunch program,” Mathias said. “We love to go get exercise at the playground.”

Not all schools have an accessible playground but they do have the same menu every week, including chicken tacos, which are a favorite among many of the children who regularly eat lunch at Blossom Gulch.

“You can put whatever you want on them,” Hanah Eckley said.

The summer lunch program will continue serving chicken tacos every Friday, along with the rest of the menu, until Aug. 17.