Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?

Youths ages 2 to 18 from Fort Meade and surrounding communities are eligible to receive a free lunch at Meade Middle School until Aug. 16, regardless of family income.

The Anne Arundel County Public Schools has received federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Service Program to offer a free breakfast and/or lunch to the general public at seven county public schools through the "Food That's In When School Is Out" meals program.

"Summer meals are a continuation of the healthy meals we serve throughout the year," said Jodi Risse, Food and Nutrition Services supervisor for the county public schools. "Feeding our children throughout the summer will help them return to school ready to learn."

Meade Middle School is serving a nutritious lunch Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon. No income requirement or registration is necessary to receive a meal.

This is the second summer the program has operated at a Meade cluster school.

Muhammad Diallo, a freshman at Meade High School, was one of several Meade High students to eat a free lunch on July 19 after trying out for the high school's football team.

"It's good," said Muhammad, as the 14-year-old ate a lunch of pizza, an apple and milk. "I was hungry at practice. I didn't get to eat much at breakfast because I had to get out early."

Since the program began on June 18, Risse said less than 20 youths per day have taken advantage of the lunch program at Meade Middle School.

"When we first started this program in the county two years ago, I thought we would have so many children, [that] we couldn't feed them all -- that we might have an abundance of families," Risse said. "But unfortunately, it's been the contrary. We don't see them. But we're determined."

Although no income requirement is necessary for the free summer meal program, Risse said the county's reduced and/or free school meal program is a critical resource.

A little less than 40 percent of families whose children attend the Fort Meade cluster schools are eligible to receive reduced and /or free meals during the school year. Students enrolled in summer school, summer enrichment and foreign language programs can also receive reduced and/or free meals.

Risse said the county public school system is promoting the free summer meals program in the hope that more families become aware of its benefits.

"It's for everybody," she said.