School is nearly out for the summer in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but cafeteria workers are ready to remain in service for students of the local district that rely on federal lunches.
That service is part of a program called Food for the Summer, which was coordinated by Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger to keep children from going hungry during vacation season.
“It’s an 11-week summer again, and for kids who aren’t in camps and who don’t have as much opportunity to do those kinds of fun things during the summer; it’s a really long summer, and especially a long summer if you’re constantly worried where your next meal is coming from,” she noted.
The program entails delivery operations that take place five days per week, with volunteers bringing nutritious meals and bonus items to children in over 10 local neighborhoods.
“It’s a two-hour window,” explained Hemminger. “You pick up the window and the fun bucket of activities; you’re with another volunteer — we have two volunteers at least at each site; you go; you interact with the kids; you help them get their lunch; and then you take the crate and stuff back to the school system.”
Grants for the program were provided in part by Strowd Roses and the Carolina Center for Public Service, but Hemmiger explained that volunteers are needed to make deliveries.
“We’re putting that big call out for volunteers; we had over 650 volunteers last summer,” she relayed. “We’re struggling right now; we only have about 70, but we’re launching [a website], so please sign up — we’d love to have you.”
According to Hemminger, any local adult is eligible to volunteer, including university students who may need to accrue public service hours to satisfy academic requirements.
“You can come as an individual or you can come and bring your own kids,” she stated. “We have families that do this; you can get your service learning hours; I promise you’ll get more out of it than you have to give.”
Over 48,000 meals were served by the program last year between June and August with the assistance of 25 sponsorships from local businesses and families.
The US Department of Agriculture provides similar services through the Summer Food Service Program, which will serve over 200 million free meals to children this year.
Photo from foodforthesummer.org.