The best meals some children eat all week are breakfast and lunch at school, but in the summer that isn't an option.
That's why area agencies are once again participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Summer Food Program, providing free meals to children who don't have to do anything to qualify other than show up.
Meals started being offered this week to any child age 1 to 18 at eight sites in Washington County under the program, which reimburses sponsors for the cost of meals. It's offered to participants in certain summer programs at several other locations in the area as well.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Miss Peggy’s House summer employees, from left, Kate Mercer and DaShara Morgan and volunteer Tessi Teters, second from right, serve free lunch to 12-year-old Shawna Cozzens Thursday at the Belpre Pool as part of the USDA’s Summer Food Program.
"We hope to encourage children to attend the sites by offering a hot nutritious lunch daily along with programming such as nutrition education, exercise and other fun and interesting activities," said Carrie McNamee, director of senior and community services at Washington-Morgan Community Action, which is sponsoring lunch at locations in Beverly, New Matamoras, Malta and McConnelsville. "The summer feeding program is important to ensure that children continue to have a nutritious meal in the summer when school is out."
The Ely Chapman Education Foundation provides breakfast and lunch not only to children participating in its United Way-sponsored Sensational Summer Camp, but anyone who comes when the meals are being offered, said Alice Chapman, founder and chairwoman of the foundation. And while the service is aimed at helping children who may not have access to or be able to afford healthy meals, it's available to anyone, regardless of income.
"This is for any child," Chapman said. "If a mother is working and wants her children to get lunch, all she has to do is have the baby-sitter bring them over here."
Local Summer Food Program sites
- Belpre Pool, 1500 Blennerhassett Ave., lunch served noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday (ends Aug. 10).
- Miss Peggy's House, 27 Lee St., breakfast served 9 to 9:30 a.m., lunch served 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Monday through Friday (ends Aug. 10).
- Tri-County Mental Health, 809 Farson St., lunch served noon to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday (ends Aug. 10).
- Beverly United Methodist Church, 700 Park St., lunch served noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; reservations: 373-3455 (ends July 27).
- Macksburg United Methodist Church, 390 Mechanic Drive, lunch served 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (ends Aug. 10).
- Malta United Methodist Church (in the annex), 390 N. Main St., lunch served noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; reservations: 962-3827 (ends July 27).
- Ely Chapman Education Foundation, 403 Scammel St., breakfast served 8:20 and 8:40 a.m. Monday through Friday, lunch served 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday (ends Aug. 17).
- Miss Peggy's House, 215 Fearing St., lunch served 1 to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (ends Aug. 10).
- Morgan Metropolitan Housing Authority, 4580 Ohio 376, lunch served noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; reservations: 962-3827 (ends July 27).
- Old New Matamoras Elementary School, 1000 Stover Drive, lunch served at noon Monday through Friday; reservations: 373-3455 (ends July 27).
Source: Times research.
Sister and brother Shawna and Owen Cozzens, ages 12 and 9, of Belpre picked up a lunch of pizza, an apple, trail mix and milk on their way in to the Belpre Pool Thursday, courtesy of Miss Peggy's House, a nonprofit child care provider that operates five sites in Washington County and 30 more in Jackson and Gallia counties.
"I like it because my mom (doesn't) have to pay money to buy food for us to take with us," Shawna Cozzens said.
Her mother, Beth, 34, said she likes the program not because of the financial benefit but because it's a convenient way for her children to get food when they go to the pool and gives them a chance to eat with their friends. She's also glad it's there for children who are in need as well.
"I think it's wonderful," she said. "There's many kids who can't afford a good lunch or (are able to) get a good lunch."
Chapman said one reason her organization continues to participate in the program is because of the high number of children in the area who qualify for free and reduced lunch during the school year.
According to Ohio Department of Education statistics, Washington County's six school districts averaged a 45 percent rate of children eligible for the federally subsidized meal benefits last year.
Some sites, including Ely Chapman, also offer breakfast, giving some children the opportunity for two nutritious meals a day. The program has also expanded to help children on the weekends as well.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued an executive order in May allocating $1 million to provide a full weekend's worth of meals to 10,000 Ohio children for 10 weeks in certain areas through a partnership between the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the Ohio Department of Education and the state's Second Harvest foodbanks. Locally, the five Miss Peggy's House sites are participating, and other sponsors said they weren't able to make it happen this year but would like to join in if it's offered again in 2013.
"Our goal is for children to have access to (nutritious) foods every day of the week," said Toni Teters, director of Miss Peggy's House.
The new program provides children with six meals - two breakfasts, two lunches and two dinners - that do not require refrigeration.