DARKE COUNTY — For many youngsters across the nation, summertime means an end to the nutritious meals that are served in schools.
It was reported that more than 680,000 children received free or reduced-price school lunches on an average day during the 2013-14 school year Many of these students do not have access to a nutritious meal when school cafeterias close for the summer.
Whether or not they are connected with the Summer Food Service Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Ohio Department of Education, there are three locations in Darke County that help feed the children in the summertime. They include the Hollansburg Summer Lunch Program and the free lunch programs at the First Presbyterian Church in Greenville and the EUM Church in Union City, Ohio.
The Hollansburg Summer Lunch Program is in its fifth year. Again this year, they are serving two hot meals a week to the people in Hollansburg and the surrounding area, having started that June 1. The average attendance for each meal last year was 23 and this year it is averaging nearly 30.
This program is supported by the Beech Grove Church of the Brethren, Cedar Grove Church of the Brethren and several families in the Hollansburg area, according to Tracy Brown and wife Heather, who have been with the program since it started five years ago.
Forty-five percent of Ohio children were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches this past school year. Ohio is in the top 10 states with high “food insecurity” households.
“The Hollansburg program is helping a small percentage of these children right here in our neighborhood,” the Browns said. “For 11 weeks, the children will enjoy a hot meal on Mondays and Wednesdays served at the Hollansburg Community Center.”
In addition to the meals, the New Madison Library is providing an educational program every Wednesday. The library team not only shares stories with the children, but also brings books for children to check out and return the following week. It also gives the children something to look forward to and a time to socialize with their peers.
“We have a sign-up,” said Tracy, “But not everybody signs up. The program is available to kids and families in Hollansburg and the surrounding community in Harrison Township…basically the [Tri-Village] school district.”
Food that is served, he said, is obtained through the local people who prepare it.
“One gentleman gives us money each year to buy food, and people drop off food, including cookies,” said Tracy, who pastors at Stelvideo Congregational Christian Church. “We use those donations. “We are committed to use every dollar and food item that comes in. We don’t want money sitting in the bank. We want food on the plates.””
In addition to private donations, the Hollansburg Summer Lunch Program has received food items and cash from the following businesses and organizations: the New Madison Kiwanis, Downing Fruit Farm, Friends of the New Madison Library, teachers and students at Tri-Village school and the Hollansburg American Legion Auxiliary.
The program in Hollansburg has a menu program; however, it is subject to change.
Meals are served from noon to 1 p.m. in the Community Center at the ball diamond on Union Street.
The Browns live in Hollansburg and have a concern for the children in the area. They are planning a 5 Day Club with the Darke County Child Evangelism Fellowship July 20-24. This will be the fifth year for the 5 Day Club.
“Lunch will be served every day of Vacation Bible School,” said Brown’s wife, the former Heather Hunt.
Angie Spurlock, secretary at the First Presbyterian Church, 114 E. Fourth St., Greenville, said there is an average of 14 young people attending the free lunches there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“Attendance low so far, but I think the weather has something to do with that,” she said. “We’re praying more will come.”
The program is not part of the Summer Food Service Program, but is open to children ages 1-17 this summer. It began June 11 and will end Aug. 6.
“All of our food is donated,” said Spurlock. “We allow parents and guardians to eat with the kids. Meals are kid-friendly and are served at 11:30 a.m. Lunch will be followed with games, movies and/or other activities until 12:30 p.m.”
Those who plan to attend are asked to use the parking lot entrance.
For more information, contact Spurlock at the church at 937-548-3188.
UNION CITY – The Evangelical United Methodist Church in Union City, Ohio is participating in the Summer Food Service Program. Meals are provided to all children without charge and are the same for all children regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability, and there will be no discrimination in the course of the meal service.
Meals will be provided at the site, 117 Franklin St., Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 pm. Phone number 937-968-4301