Why a Summer Food Program?
Almost 30% of the 3 King George County Elementary Schools’ students receive Free or Reduced Price breakfasts and lunches through the school’s USDA Food Service Program. When school breaks for the summer, these children lose access to their breakfasts and lunches, which in some circumstances may be the most nourishing meals they eat all day.
Our program seeks to fill the nutritional gap that occurs during the ten weeks of summer vacation by providing a free lunch to kids who might otherwise go hungry.
When children receive nutritious meals during the summer, they return to school in September in a better position to resume learning.1
Providing an extra meal can help parents stretch their available food dollars for the household.
It is also possible to include educational and recreational activities during food service that would further enrich these children’s lives.
1 http://frac.org/newsite/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/reading_writing_hungry_report.pdf, “Reading, Writing, and Hungry: The consequences of food insecurity on children, and on our nation’s economic success,” by Children’s Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program/Food Research and Action Center, p. 25.
How did the Summer Lunch Bunch begin?
At the end of the 2009 school year, Julie Boucher, a teacher at Potomac Elementary School, learned that children who rely on the USDA Free and Reduced Meals Program during the school year do not have access to meals during the summer months. With the aid of her church, Ms. Boucher was able to secure grant funding from the congregation’s district office. She and church volunteers prepared lunches one day per week and opened the church for children to come and eat a meal in a safe environment. Approximately 25 children from Potomac Elementary School in Dahlgren attended the program each week. Ms. Boucher noticed that largely all of the children came from the neighborhood surrounding the church, within walking distance.
In order to increase the number of children benefiting from the program, for the summer of 2010, Ms. Boucher submitted a form to the school’s administration, allowing parents to “register” their children for the program. From that data, Ms. Boucher realized that a large number of children in need of the program’s services were not able to access it because they could not walk the distance to the church and their families had transportation issues. Ms. Boucher and her team decided to take the show on the road and packed the lunches in coolers, delivering them to children in need using their personal vehicles. At its peak, the program served approximately 80 individuals, schoolchildren, at times their families, and even some senior citizens from the Potomac Elementary School community.
In the spring of 2011, members of Peace Lutheran Church’s Women of the Word Bible study group got in touch with Ms. Boucher about her Church’s program. The two churches decided to coordinate their efforts in order to expand the program to serve children across the county.
Obviously, THE NEED IS GREAT.
How Does the Summer Lunch Bunch Work?
The elementary and middle school’s offices received a copy of our notification form for dissemination to parents. Participation in the program is voluntary. The school WILL NOT release Free and Reduced Meals status to our program. Rather, we notify them of our plan to provide lunches and that the day of the week, time, and location of stops will be advertised in advance.
Parents were notified when and where lunches will be delivered. Approximately 3 sites were selected from each of the 3 elementary school’s boundaries, and a few others were added that we previously hadn’t considered based on need.
2. Meal Planning/Preparation
Volunteers have participated in the “Cooking for Crowds” class offered by the Family and Consumer Sciences division of the KG Extension Service office. Staff and volunteers then develop menus and shopping lists, checking with the local food bank for donation availability, and shop for meal components. On the morning of delivery day, volunteers assemble the lunches in the kitchens of Peace Lutheran Church and Dahlgren United Methodist Church. Lunches are packed into coolers and prepared for delivery.
Presently, we rely on volunteers to provide transportation of lunches to the children in their personal vehicles. Church vans or buses could also be used.
The delivery team is keeping a record of the number of lunches served at each location to assist in projecting future operating cost and ensure food is not wasted. For safety’s sake, our delivery team consists of two volunteers, wearing orange vests or T-shirts with our logo. Vehicles are marked by Summer Lunch Bunch magnets on each side.
Where can the Summer Lunch Bunch go from here?
The opportunities for outreach that can be incorporated with food service are endless, and would allow agencies and programs from across the county to participate. Information on available community services can be provided in each bag, or program representatives can appear on-site during delivery times. Following are examples:
Additionally, it is hoped that the county-wide approach will be so successful that we will have sufficient funding from local sponsors and volunteers from additional churches to expand the program to offer lunches more than one day per week.
How Can You Help Make the Summer Lunch Bunch a Success?
Express your support. We can provide information and guidance to help you deliver the message that you support our program.
Donate your time and/or expertise. We are seeking volunteers of all skill levels from all backgrounds, from assembly and delivery of lunches, to those with professional expertise to guide us as we grow.
Donate money or gifts-in-kind. Below is a sponsorship scale that allows you to covert the dollar amount of your choosing into lunches.
Average price for lunch meal obtained from USDA Income Guidelines and Reimbursement Rates for the Federal Child Nutrition Programs, January 2011 through December 2011. The current lunch reimbursement is $ 3.29. A $10 donation will provide ($ 10 / $3.29 =) approximately 3 lunches.
If you wish to donate another amount that does not correspond to our scale, we would be happy to work with you to meet your needs.
Our Community Partners and Sponsors
The King George “Get Healthy” Coalition has provided guidance on implementation of the program across the county. Members include the King George Family YMCA, VPI Extension Office-King George, The Journal Press, and King George Farmers’ Market, as well as individual and business members.