Free summer meals for children in need

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 6/16/19

Free meals are available to Walker County children in need this summer.At roughly 15 locations in the county, breakfast and lunch are served to children up to 18 years old who qualify through the …

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Free summer meals for children in need

Posted

Free meals are available to Walker County children in need this summer.

At roughly 15 locations in the county, breakfast and lunch are served to children up to 18 years old who qualify through the Summer Food Service Program.

The program is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and is state administered by the Alabama State Department of Education.

Jasper City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson gave some background on the Summer Food Service Program.

"In the 1960s, the U. S. Department of Agriculture created two meal programs to assist students without enough to eat.  These programs are the National School Lunch Program, which assists students during the school year and the Summer Food Service Program that continues serving meals throughout the summer months," Jackson said. "Hunger is not a problem for other communities, hunger is a problem for all communities — even ours.  We are happy to provide these programs for our students and families."

She added, "Making sure kids have nutritious meals helps them to do better in school, but hunger doesn't end the last day of school." 

Local nonprofit Raising Arrows, Jasper City Board of Education, Walker County Board of Education, Winston County Board of Education and the Alabama Food Bank Association help sponsor the Summer Food Service Program locally, and food is served Monday through Friday at numerous sites across the county.

Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood said he is happy the county school system can serve as a sponsor for providing summer meals to children.

“I am so proud that we are a sponsoring agent in the school communities served through this program," he said. "This not only allows qualifying students to receive good nutritious meals during the summer months, but it also serves to strengthen relationships in showing them how much we genuinely care about their wellbeing.”  

The Break for a Plate program is the name of our state's Summer Food Service Program.

"These meals are offered to all children 18 years of age and younger, plus all children who meet the state agency definition of mentally or physically disabled," Beckie Martin, Child Nutrition Program director of Jasper City Schools, said. 

According to the Break for a Plate website, one in five children in the United States do not receive enough nutritious food, and one in four children in Alabama are part of a family that struggles with providing nutritious meals.

The Break for a Plate website goes on to state that Alabama is the sixth poorest state, and almost 60 percent of Alabama children enrolled in public schools receive free or reduced lunch.       

When children don't receive nutritious meals, they are subject to stunted growth, illness, obesity and emotional issues, according to Break for a Plate.  

Through a new dashboard on the Alabama State Department of Education's website, it was revealed earlier this year that just over 65 percent of Walker County students are on free and reduced lunch, compared to roughly 53 percent in Jasper City.   

No Kid Hungry, a national campaign to end child hunger, created a summer meal texting service for parents to locate sites where their child can get free meals during the summer. Parents can simply text FOOD to 877-877. They will then be prompted to enter their zip code, and the nearest meal sites will be sent via text message, along with phone numbers and distribution times.

To receive the information in Spanish, parents can simply text COMIDA to 877-877. 

The following is a list of locations where summer meals are distributed in Walker County, according to the No Kid Hungry website: Dora High School; City of Lights Dream Center in Dora; Cordova High School; New Beginnings Church of God; Oakman Middle School; Oakman High School; Jasper High School; Maddox Intermediate School; Worship Life International; Walker County Community Action Agency; Memorial Park Natatorium; Jasper Housing Authority; Freedom Assembly of God; the old Walker High School; and Carbon Hill Elementary/High School.   

Each location can be called directly for meal distribution times. Full information is available by searching a map at www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.

The Raising Arrows Facebook page also lists meal distribution sites.