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.”

Community Lunch Program

In partnership with Frederick Community Action Agency (FCAA) and local churches in the Walkersville area, hundreds of children receive free lunches in their very own community. Calvary AG, Walkersville, led by Sunny McNally, makes arrangements for the FCAA to provide lunchtime meals to approximately 50 children Monday through Friday at the community clubhouse in the community of Discovery. This week I was able to help as the team served lunch, led a craft and spent time with the kids. With sculpting balloons and balloon pump in hand, it was with great excitement that I was able to make and teach kids how to twist a variety of animals, a sword or hat. On the last day I presented each child a balloon cross letting them know that Jesus loves them. Though it may seem like a small act of kindness it is showing the love of Jesus through service and time committed to bringing hope to families .

Deut. 15:11 “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”