Lunch in the Park is back for its 20th summer.

Children younger than 18 can get a free lunch Monday through Friday from 12 to 1 p.m. starting Monday at Douglass Park. Lunch in the Park is a volunteer-based program that provides free meals to children during the summer break.

This summer, the program is adding hot meals in addition to its traditional boxed lunches, according to a Thursday news release. Children will be given a hot meal, such as a hamburger, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The meal will include:

  • A source of protein.
  • A bag of vegetables with dipping sauce.
  • Fruit.
  • A dessert-type food.
  • Choice of white or chocolate milk.

“Lunch in the Park is a wonderful and much-needed service to the community during the summer,” Erin Harris, nutrition supervisor for the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department’s Women, Infants and Children division, said in the news release.

Children will continue to have the option to take the meal with them or eat in the park.

Lunch in the Park is the result of a partnership among the city of Columbia, Columbia Public Schools and the Voluntary Action Center.

VAC helps organize the volunteers and provide activities for children who stick around to eat the meal in the park. Past activities include physical activities, drawing, coloring, learning games and book handouts, according to the program website.

“This is a program that all partners are proud of and volunteers sign up for year after year,” Harris said.

  • Hannah is a summer reporter at the Columbia Missourian. Studying investigative journalism. Reach her at, or in the newsroom 882-5720.

  • Assistant city editor, summer 2021. Former education reporter, spring 2021. I am a Masters student studying news editing. Reach me at or on Twitter @MadiStephens6.

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