For a lot of children this is their only hot meal

Originally published July 03, 2010 in the Frederick News Post
By Patti S. Borda
News-Post Staff

Photo by Travis Pratt - Gairus Lynch takes a bite of a chicken sandwich Thursday afternoon at the Discovery Homeowners Association building in Walkersville. Children who need a free lunch on summer weekdays can receive one through the Frederick Community Action Agency’s Summer Food Service Program.

It was the ever-popular pizza day Friday at eight venues where the Frederick Community Action Agency provides free lunches for children.

Sarah McAleavy, FCAA’s food and nutrition services coordinator, said that many children would go hungry if it were not for free school meals and this summer program.

“There’s a lot of food insecurity in Frederick,” McAleavy said. “For a lot of children this is their only hot meal. For some it is their only meal.”

Frederick has offered the Summer Food Service Program for eight years. This year it began June 14, and participation has been especially high, she said.

“We ran out of lunches the first day. We were kind of shocked,” she said.

At Hill Street Park, as many as 150 children have been showing up each day, she said. Daily, the agency prepares between 520 and 540 complete meals, depending on what is presumed to be the expected popularity of some entrees.

“Chicken nuggets and pizza are the all-stars,” she said. Burritos are less popular.

“The nice thing is you know your kids are getting a healthy meal,” McAleavy said.

The agency serves hot dogs on Monday. Tuesday, chicken nuggets; Wednesday, burritos; Thursday, chicken patty sandwich; Friday, pizza. Every meal comes with carrots with ranch dressing, a fruit cup and milk. The program requires children to have milk, plain or chocolate.

Share Our Strength, a national organization to end childhood hunger in America, have joined with federal agencies and the state departments of education, human resources, and health and mental hygiene as well as nonprofit organizations such as the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland; the Maryland Food Bank; Advocates for Children and Youth; Maryland Hunger Solutions/Food Research and Action Center; Seedco; Sodexo; SHARE Food Network and Capital Area Food Bank as part of the effort to address the nutritional needs of poor children.

“The Partnership (to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland) pulls together agencies, corporations and nonprofits to work together to end childhood hunger,” said Rosemary King Johnston,executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children, in a news release. “This summer we pooled every resource and communication tool available to make sure that families in Maryland who need access to food this summer are able to connect their kids to meals.”

Thursday, 109 meals were served at the Hill Street Park pavilion in Frederick, said Meghan Miller, a member of the Frederick Community Action Agency staff who has served meals at Hill Street Park for four years.

“This is a slow day,” Miller said.

Small and tall children waited and thanked Miller for their lunch sack while Miller caught up on the youngsters’ summer news.

The program addresses the needs of children who receive free or reduced-price meals at school during the academic year. According to the nonprofit, 5,146 children in Frederick County receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year, but only 6 percent of those received summer meals last year.

Photo by Travis Pratt - Calvary Assembly children’s missionary Terry Williams makes a balloon animal on Thursday with help from Jessica Queen, 4, at the Discovery Homeowners Association building in Walkersville. Williams assisted with activities during the Frederick Community Action Agency’s Summer Food Service Program.

The cost of each lunch ranges from $1.50 to $1.80, McAleavy said. The state reimburses the agency $3.20 per lunch. That covers the food and its transportation.

She has 10 servers during the summer. Some are full time, and some are seasonal.

The program continues through Aug. 20. Children under 18 and adults who bring them may receive a lunch at one of eight locations:

Hill Street Park Pavilion on Hill Street, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Stonegate Park Pavilion on Andover Lane, noon to 12:45 p.m.
College Estates Park on Taney Avenue, noon to 12:45 p.m.
PAL Center on Sagner Avenue, noon to 12:30 p.m.
Carver Community Center on Lee Street, noon to 12:30 p.m.
Carrollton Park at Center Street and Prospect Boulevard, noon to 12:45 p.m.
Discovery (Walkersville) HOA Building, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Amber Meadows Park on Amber Drive, noon to 12:30 p.m.

Monday no lunch will be served in observance of the July 4 holiday.

Some communities serve meals in school buildings during the summer. In Frederick all meals are served outdoors, McAleavy said.

The recent sweltering weather has not deterred participation.

“We had a hundred people a day in that heat,” McAleavy said. “Obviously people are in need of this.”

Father/Son Summit

Recently I was introduced to one of the most contagious pastors I’ve ever met. Pastor Alex Hardy, is the pastor of New Dimension Worship Center in Frederick Maryland and he asked if I would come to their Father/Son Summit to minister to the boys in attendance. Although he was targeting the men of his community through various sessions, it was his desire that the boys would also be challenged in their walk as sons and as future men in the community.

I was encouraged from the very beginning of the summit when Pastor Hardy challenged the men to be strong leaders in their family, especially spiritual leaders. He stressed the importance of raising Godly sons and that their community will only change through men that follow after God.

The topic I chose to share with the boys that day was obedience. It seems that obedience to both God and parents is the foundation for strong relationships and I was led to share this with the boys. We discussed the importance of being obedient and that God commands it. If we know we are to be obedient to God then it follows that we must be obedient to our parents. Ephesian 6:1-3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother‚Äîwhich is the first commandment with a promise‚Äî that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.‚Äù

Everything that day revolved around obedience. As the day progressed we made a few gifts for the fathers as well as reinforcing our topic with some fun games.

It was a blessing to see a pastor that desires to turn his community around by reaching the spiritual leaders of the home first. May God continue to work in the lives of the men that attended and may they influence many other men who will turn their hearts to Jesus.