By Mackenzie N. Morgan
When the last bell rings on the final day of school, that, for many students is the signal for long summer days filled with fun, friends and freedom to explore and unwind. But for children whose only guaranteed meal comes during school mealtimes, it means finding ways to stave off hunger. Fortunately, a slew of summer feeding programs have been cropping up around the country in an effort to ensure children from low-income families have access to nutritious food year round.
The Summer Feeding Initiative is one such program and recently provided more than 500 hot lunches for kids in three Lithonia apartment complexes June 24-26.
The Summer Feeding Program, sponsored by Admiration Lodge No. 25, Cooking for a Cause, I Am a Father, Inc. and the Arby’s franchise, provided the meals for the first time during the summer season as an extension of a pre-existing program that provides meals during spring break. Participating locations for the summer meals included The Hills at Fairington, Terraces at Parkview and The Park at Edinburgh. The sites were selected based on need and recommendations from members of the community.
“During summer break, students can miss an average of 10 meals per week. There are so many kids in need, so we do this as a way to give back to the community that we are a part of,” said Miguel Ramos, who helped facilitate the event on behalf of Admiration Lodge No. 25.
According to the national nonprofit, Feeding America, research shows that children from homes that lack consistent access to food are more likely to experience developmental impairments in areas like language, motor skills, and behavior and that kids at risk of hunger may be less equipped to reach their full potential.
Dre Moore, who serves as resident services manager at the Terraces at Parkview, said the summer food program is a response to help alleviate summer food insecurities.
“During the summer months, kids from low-income households are at risk for experiencing food insecurities. Providing meals for kids during summer break helps to ensure these kids aren’t missing meals,” said Moore.
Resident services coordinator at Terraces at Parkview, Job Cannon, runs the summer camp for the complex and said the free meal program is critical for the children who reside in his community and that the initiative is part of an ongoing effort to provide their residents with the support they need.
“Seasonal hunger occurs any time children are out of school for breaks and our mission is to ensure our kids are never hungry and positively engaged within our community,” said Cannon.
The three-day pop-up event included food, games and even the chance to see a doctor via a mobile pediatric clinic provided by the Kids’-Doc-On-Wheels program.
Geoffrey Fulton, who is the mobile unit driver, said the full-service mobile medical suite offers kids the same medical services they would receive at a regular doctor’s office.
“Our job is to serve underserved populations who might not otherwise have access or be able to afford regular healthcare. We are the only unit in the state of Georgia that is certified to give immunizations and we also offer all of the health services you can get a traditional doctor’s office,”Fulton.
Volunteer nurses were on hand to provide wellness exams, sports physicals, immunizations and a smorgasbord of health screenings free of charge. Kids who participate receive a gift just for showing up and are sent home with a health report card for their parents.
“We’re giving them food, not just for their bodies, but through our presence, food for their minds,” said Marcus Collins, who serves as the worshipful master for Admiration Lodge No. 25.