On Centre: Around Philipsburg | Hungry children can get free meals in Mo Valley

I never appreciated the effect that summer vacation can have on a family’s budget until I had a child.

It isn’t just about summer activities or field trips to amusement parks. It’s not the added cost of regular access to jars of bubble liquid and sidewalk chalk, although that can’t be underestimated. It isn’t even about the “Hey, look, a festival!” which translates to a truly startling amount of money in corn dogs, bounce houses and toys that will break within minutes of purchase.

The simple math of having a child at home all day can be expensive. Especially if the family is already low on cash.

When my son packs his lunch for school, there is a sandwich, usually peanut butter with raisins, but if he’s really lucky, his favorite, bologna and cheese with lettuce, mayo and black olives. Yeah, I know, he’s weird. There might be a homemade cookie or a muffin. Baby carrots are a staple. Nothing makes him happier than putting ice cold water in his Superman thermos, but a strawberry kiwi juice pouch is another regular option.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal. How much is a slice of bread, a spoonful of peanut butter, a few carrots?

For some families, homes where stretching the budget to cover each dinner is a struggle, the idea of adding another meal to the mix is crushing. At Philipsburg-Osceola schools, since earlier this year, every student has had free breakfast. About half qualify for free lunch. Over the summer, that is two more meals parents have to provide.

The Moshannon Valley Branch of the YMCA of Centre County steps in to fill that void. For several years now, the Y has offered a free summer lunch program. Any child, school age or not, qualifies, no proof of income necessary. Meals are served at several spots around the district from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Snacks are offered in the evening at the Y.

It might not seem like a lot. What’s the cost of a hot dog and some tater tots? But for a parent with a hungry child, it’s priceless.