This school year, according to the Georgia Department of Education, some 1.1 million children were enrolled to receive free and reduced price meals. When these kids are released for summer break, their parents will be faced with the task of feeding their families without that support.
Fortunately, there is a growing movement to help bridge the gap for families during the summer. In partnership with Bright from the Start nutrition services, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and the Arby’s Foundation, the Georgia Food Bank Association’s “Feeding for a Promising Future: No Kid Hungry” campaign is connecting families with USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. To find summer meals, families can text FOODGA to 877-877 from June 1 – August 15, 2015.
Filling a Big Void
Many of the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s partner agencies are also providing free summer meals and a nurturing place for kids to spend their summer days. The Study Hall, Inc., located in the Peoplestown community, is one such program. During the school year, The Study Hall hosts a highly acclaimed afterschool program. They provide a healthy snack and even serve dinner for kids whose parents are working late. Their doors don’t close when the school year ends.
“During the summertime when kids are out running and they’ve got more energy and they’re eating more, food can be a great expense for parents,” said Jacquetta Watkins, executive director of The Study Hall. “We offer summer camp where we not only provide enriching activities, but breakfast, lunch and two healthy snacks. That fills a big void and creates a lot of support for our families.”
Moneey, a Study Hall parent, says the staff and volunteers there are like an extended family to her. She works full time as a teacher with Atlanta Public Schools, and her husband, Walter, has his own landscaping company. The couple has four children; third-grader Caleb and kindergartener Kennedi currently attend The Study Hall’s afterschool program and summer camp. “My husband was in a motorcycle accident and suffered a traumatic head injury several months ago,” said Moneey. “It left us with just my income. The Study Hall community has been a great support – sending care packages, providing transportation – it warms your heart to know you have people who think about other people’s needs.”
The couple can’t imagine what they would do without The Study Hall. “It’s unfortunate for kids to be in areas where they have no programs. When you have no place to go, nothing to do, you tend to seek the wrong things,” said Moneey. “When you have programs like this, you see a positive change. Kids are going to grow.”
Moneey is grateful for the emphasis The Study Hall places on providing healthy food. “They do a wonderful job of making sure the kids get a balanced meal,” said Moneey. “It’s great to walk in and see my children trying new things and enjoying their food.” Watkins says her team has never compromised on nutrition. “Finding ways to encourage the children and give them healthy options is something we try to do on a regular basis,” said Watkins. “Our cook, Ms. Betty, does a really good job of exposing the kids to different types of vegetables – things they may not get at home like asparagus, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. She also uses healthier preparation methods, like grilling instead of frying. She makes it taste good.”
--Amy Hudson, Senior Communications Manager
Find summer meals offered near you--text FOODGA to 877-877 or visit georgiafoodbankassociation.org.