The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 15, 2013

St. Peter program aims to fight the Summer Slide

School offers a free meal, activities and reading events

By Amanda Dyslin
The Mankato Free Press

---- — ST. PETER — Oscar Ramirez decided to use his time for creative purposes. He often does during Read and Feed, he said.

“I made you a gift. It’s me as a robot,” Ramirez, a soon-to-be fifth-grader, said to third-grade teacher Brittany Galetka.

“I will treasure it forever, Oscar.”

Other kids, ages 1 to 18, used the 90 minutes from 11 a.m. to 12:30 in the St. Peter High School cafeteria to play with learning apps on iPads, read books, do puzzles and mazes, or just hangout at school with friends.

They also ate lunch. The meal of the day: the very popular orange chicken.

“It’s my favorite,” said kindergarten teacher Nancy Sizer before she began reading to a group of young children.

More than 300 students and some parents would come through the cafeteria Tuesday as part of St. Peter’s Read and Feed program. Monday through Thursday every week until August the school offers a free meal, activities and reading events, said Ytive Prafke, district special programs administrator. (The program will not be offered July 3 and 4.)

Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Prafke said the purpose goes beyond offering kids a hot meal during the summer months.

“The intention of the program is to curb summer learning loss and keep kids connected to school,” she said.

The program is in its fifth year. Prafke said the first year about 3,000 students participated. Last year it was about 9,700, and this year the goal is 10,000 kids.

A partnership with the city to bus students to the program has helped boost participation each day, Prafke said. Paraprofessional Jen Lee, who has been working at Read and Feed for three years, said a lot of kids get to the program that way.

“It’s really grown,” she said.

Galetka just wrapped up her first year teaching in the district, and she said taking part in Read and Feed has been fun so far for her and the kids.

“It’s not anything that they’re graded on. It’s not anything they have to do. They can sit and read and relax,” she said.

Part of the program includes group reading sessions by volunteer readers. Anyone interested in being a volunteer can email Prafke at

Book donations dropped off at the school or Econofoods also are welcomed.

At a glance The Bookmobile will be at Read and Feed 12:30-1 p.m. June 27, July 11, July 25, Aug. 8 and Aug. 22. 4-H on Wheels will be there June 27, July 8, July 16 and July 23.