May 24, 2015

Community Atmosphere in Riverton

Riverton is a community where a retiree loads up to six children in her car to get them to the nearest free meal. It’s a community where the police department delivers food for kids every summer day. A community where a preschool teacher has taken it upon herself to start a meal program. And Riverton is a community where 80 to 90 children now receive nutritious meals and activities daily.

“I don’t know what we’d do without it,” said Alyssa Grecco, whose three children are regular visitors at a meal distribution at the Lincoln Place trailer park.

“This has been great,” added Sara Robinson, who has three children of her own. Sara has lived in the trailer park since she was 12 years old. She now works at a hotel in Springfield.

The close-knit town of 3,455 is a few miles east of Springfield, along the Sangamon River. More than 50 percent of students attending Riverton’s schools receive free or reduced lunch during the school year. But when school ends, many children face a summer without a regular source of meals.

The same community atmosphere that exists in Riverton can also be found in more than 2,000 sites across the state this summer. In the Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater, local youths are able to get a free meal at a storefront theater. Sponsored by Alderman Harry Osterman, the site also provides sports and learning activities for children. The scene replicates itself throughout Chicago and Illinois.

Tracy Day, a teacher at the local school in Riverton, attended one of No Kid Hungry Illinois’ Summer Meals Summits in November. She was introduced to Mike Crews at the Illinois Coalition of Community Services, an organization which received funding from No Kid Hungry Illinois to expand Summer Meal sites. In May, ICCS and Day launched four sites in town, with the local elementary school serving as a meal site and kitchen hub for the other sites.

“I had no idea about how easy it would be. ICCS makes it easy,” Day said.

“We said the same thing about you,” Crews said.

At another trailer park, Hilltop, Kathy White and Jewel Richards, both grandparents, have taken it upon themselves to serve meals all summer long. White ferries a carload of children from her neighborhood 1½ miles away. Each site has their own take on summer fun and activities. On a recent day at the Hilltop site, children decorated flowerpots and searched a neighboring pond for turtles.

“It’s something we thoroughly enjoy,” White said.

“The good thing about it is we know they’re eating in summer time,” Richards added.

<img src=”http://www.summerfeedingillinois.org/images/stories/riverton%20sfsp%202014.jpg” alt=”” />

<strong>Jewel Richards, left, and Kathy White</strong>

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