Summer meals program seeks sponsors

jmink@macon.comApril 13, 2014 

For many parents, the summer is anything but relaxing.

When children are no longer getting school lunch and breakfast, many parents struggle to afford those extra meals.

Last year, the Bibb County school district fed more than 4,000 children through its federally funded summer meals program. But in a district of more than 24,000 students, nutrition workers expect to feed more children, and they are reaching out to the community for help.

On Thursday, the district is hosting a Summer Meals Sponsor Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Welcome Center, 2003 Riverside Drive. The program feeds children at sites throughout the county, from churches to apartment complexes, and the fair is for anyone interested in hosting a meals location.

“There is a really big push to expand the summer meals program,” said Cleta Long, the nutrition director for the Bibb County school system. “The program has really tried to serve the children in the county that have some food inadequacies in their families. What we’re really trying to do now is get the word out and get others involved.”

Last year, about 100 sponsors signed up, which was “a very minor number” and restricted the number of children the program could reach, said Bernice Tukes, summer meals supervisor for Bibb County.

The program runs June 2 through July 18 and feeds any child younger than 18 -- the children do not have to attend Bibb County public schools. Workers serve food at some Bibb County schools, but a majority of the meal sites are at other community organizations.

Sponsors do not prepare the food. Some of them pick it up from school kitchens, and others have it delivered. Sponsors choose the time of day they serve meals and how long they participate.

For example, one organization might serve breakfast, lunch and a snack, while another organization serves only lunch. Some participate every day from June to July, while others serve food for a few days, Long said.

Some churches have incorporated the meals program into their Bible schools, opting to serve their meals at dinner time. Nutrition workers are specifically targeting libraries this time around, where children can read and study while receiving a good meal, Long said.

“We know from research that kids who do not have adequate nutrition through the summer, when they come back to school they have not retained as much,” Long said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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