Extending the Reach of Summer Meals
The New Bethel M.B. Church in East St. Louis is a sponsor of the Summer Meals Program and has five sites under its sponsorship. Serving Summer Meals since 2000, “it’s our sustainability that I am most proud of, that we have been able to maintain in all these years. I didn’t see that at the time when we started the program,” said Donna Samuels, Program Coordinator. When New Bethel started the program, there weren’t many others that were providing Summer Meals.
“They [kids] function better after they have eaten.”
Now that schools in the area have followed New Bethel’s suite and are participating in the Summer Meals Program, Samuels saw an opportunity to branch out to other areas of the city in order to reach more kids. “Some kids don’t have access to food during the summer and get left out especially in the rural areas where they don’t have many options to go to for food.” Samuels applied for and received a Summer Meals Program grant through Rise & Shine/No Kid Hungry to expand access to and participation in the Summer Meals Program.
“We brought a school bus. We have housing projects so we are going to go around and pick kids up and bring them to the church for the Summer Meals Program,” said Samuels. The bus will make two stops in the morning for breakfast and two in the afternoon for lunch. After the kids have had their meal and some time to participate in an activity they will board the bus to be dropped back off. New Bethel currently serves 40-45 kids daily but with the bus anticipate 65-70 kids or more to be served daily. After advertising the bus pick-ups Samuels hopes to start the mobile response mid-July.
Samuels sees how hunger affects kids, “if kids are hungry they can’t do a lot of different things because their mind is on food. They function better after they have eaten.”
Samuels expressed that parents in the community have come to rely on the Summer Meals Program. “Parents work and they depend on us to feed their kids.”
New Bethel’s Summer Meals Program will run until August 10th. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and lunch is served from noon until 1:30 p.m. New Bethel makes all their meals at the church and ships them out to their sites. Most meals are served hot.