Oskaloosa Summer Lunch Program Nearing First Year Goals
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Summer break is normally associated with sports, recreation and relaxation for students. For many, it’s an uncertain time as some have little to eat at home, going to bed hungry.
One Oskaloosa program has been started to help fight summer child hunger. The Oskaloosa Summer Lunch Program is working to help children that depend upon the hot lunch program at school.
Oskaloosa has over 50% of its students on the free and reduced lunch program, and because of that, the USDA says that every child in the community, under the age of 18, is allowed to use the service free of charge.
Martha Comfort took up the task of helping to organize the program, and as the first 3 weeks of the program have gone by, Martha says that, “We’ve got a rhythm going now.”
That rhythm starts by purchasing the food needed, and volunteers helping to prepare the meals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings before a noon-time serving deadline. That’s when other volunteers step in to help serve the lunches to children at 3 different locations in the community. Central United Methodist Church (201 N Market Street), Edmundson Park (Kiwanis Shelter), and New Hope Free Methodist Church (821 8th Avenue East).
Lunch is served on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 1PM and started on June 2nd.
When the program was first being planned, the USDA asked for a projected number of meals that would be served. That enabled them to help set a budget on the program. If the numbers exceed initial expectation, a simple call to the USDA is all that the program has to do in order to continue. “So we just threw out 100 per day,” said Comfort.
With that number in mind, “We had that the beginning of last week,” Comfort said of the program already reaching the initial estimate. “We are seeing kids across the board coming,” said Comfort of the attending children.
The goal is also to help keep the children’s minds being engaged. Different programming has been available to those attending the meals. Students have been able to ask math questions from a local math teacher, while another day featured a banjo player, and in the futur there will be a juggler.
A fun day to try out the program would be on June 30th. The program will be celebrating the July 4th holiday, and will be featuring old fashioned games such as a watermelon seed spitting contest, and a ring toss. “We’re trying to make it fun,” says Comfort. “We don’t want to just say, here’s your food. Thanks for coming. We want to do something educational and fun.”
With childhood hunger prevalent in the community, “I think this is just the beginning,” says Comfort on the growing program. “We’re just scratching the surface. I don’t think people in this community understand the great need. There are children that go to school on Monday morning hungry from not hardly eating over the weekend.”
When the program is done at the end of summer, Comfort says the question will be, “What’s the next step.”
Volunteers are still needed, and Comfort says that there are opportunities for a business to come in and volunteer during a lunch day. If you would like information or information on volunteering, you can call Martha Comfort at 641-660-5264.