Summer feeding program serves up 36,000 meals for local kids

Published 3:39 am Saturday, August 17, 2019

While summer vacation can mean beach trips, summer camp and a break from school, for some children, it can also be a time of uncertainty, specifically regarding where their next meal is coming from. Fortunately, in Beaufort County, a long-running meal program helps fill the gaps in nutritional needs during the summer season.

Today marks the final week of the summer feeding program for 2019, and all told, Beaufort County Schools, with the help of a team of approximately 65 volunteers, have delivered approximately 36,000 meals to sites throughout the county.

“We exceeded (our expectations),” said BCS Child Nutrition Director Gwyn Roberson-McBride said. “It was so awesome. We were able to add a few new sites, and we had a base group of volunteers that have been volunteering for years, and they were able to expand and train new volunteers in the communities we are serving in.”

This year marked a shift in the program’s management from previous years, with BCS taking the reins of administering the USDA-funded program. Up through last summer, Care-O-World Learning Center had managed the program for years before changes at the federal level pushed the center to yield control of the program.

“The shift was pretty much an easy transition,” Roberson-McBride said. “It allowed us to continue feeding our students in the summer that needed prepared meals and also an opportunity for our employees to have summer jobs. It was a great success.”

Every weekday this summer, the kitchen at John Small Elementary was busy. In June and August, the staff prepared around 500 breakfasts and 700 lunches, a number that peaked in July at 700 breakfasts and 1,000 lunches each day. These weekday meals were then supplemented by backpacks of food kids could take home over the weekend.

From John Small, a team of volunteers transported the meals to 11 closed sites and six open sites throughout the county. While closed sites fed a set number of kids each day, open sites served any child who showed up, from birth up through age18. Open sites included New Growth Ministries in Aurora, the Belhaven Civic Center, The Salvation Army of Washington, Quail Ridge Apartments, River Road Estates and Thomas Road.

“The summer feeding program is set up to directly address not only the food deserts we have, but children at home during the summer that may not have food in their cabinets,” Roberson-McBride said. “We’re right there in those communities serving a hot lunch every day.”

At The Salvation Army of Washington, this was the first year the organization has served as a feeding site, offering a new opportunity for outreach in the community. The Salvation Army of Washington Lt. Karl Bush says his site served between 15 and 20 kids each day.

“It’s not just right around us,” Bush said. “There’s other folks that have come in from several blocks away or from the other side of town. … It’s not just the kids. It’s educating the parents and help bring resources that will help, no pun intended, feed the family.”

Another community partner, the Beaufort/Hyde Partnership for Children, also encouraged students’ academic wellbeing alongside their physical needs by providing books over the summer. Overall, Roberson-McBride says the program brought a lot of smiles to the faces of the children it served.

“It was not just a place for them to come eat,” she said. “They can come, socialize, have a good time and even learn in the summer months.”