This Summer, 75 Sandwiches Made Daily For Hungry Kids
It doesn’t matter if you’re from Oneonta or elsewhere, if your family is rich or poor, if you’re seven or 17 – if a kid is hungry, Catholic Charities and the First United Presbyterian Church will have lunch ready.
“We realized there was no summer feeding program in Oneonta,” said Nadine Stenson, one of the program’s coordinators at the “Red Door” church. “There’s been a huge need for food for kids.”
It’s a program that Catholic Charities has been trying to get in place for several years, said Christy Houck, program director. “Child hunger goes up in the summer – the schools provide one, sometimes two meals and a snack during the school year, but in the summer, that’s more food the families have to buy. And unfortunately, some kids just go without.”
The Summer Food Service Program is sponsored through a USDA grant and administered by the state Education Department, reimbursing sponsors for meals served. Catholic Charities had the grant application but no way to cost-effectively staff the program; the church had volunteers in search of new community missions, but no plans in place.
“Everyone wants to feed kids,” said Houck.
The two collaborated, and from now through the end of August, Monday through Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., kids up to age 18 can go to the large pavilion in Neahwa park and get a sandwich on whole wheat bread, a piece of fruit, a vegetable and milk.
In the Riverside School district, where the program is located, 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. “If we can help these families by eliminating the need to buy one meal a day, it can help them stretch their budgets a little further,” said Houck.
The city gave them free use of the pavilion, and they coordinated times with the YMCA’s park program, which ends at noon, so that children could come down and eat after spending the morning playing in the park. Flyers announcing were distributed at the schools, the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club.
“We don’t take names,” said Stenson. “You can come from any county, any state. Any child can just come by.”
On the program’s first day, Monday, July 7, Red Door Church volunteers made 75 chicken salad sandwiches, with baby carrots and an apple. And despite the rain, 24 kids, including several teens on break from summer jobs, stopped by the pavilion for lunch. “We’re hoping for more,” said Houck. “We know the need is out there.”