No-cost meals available to children at 40 sites in Toledo

Toledo Blade
Children in Toledo need not go hungry this summer.
Any child under 18 can receive free meals on weekdays at 40 sites throughout the city, no questions asked. With past meal distribution numbers lower in the summer than during the school year, representatives of Toledo’s Summer Food Service Program say they want to make summer meals more accessible this year.
Students can now call the 211 hotline 24 hours a day for information on the nearest program site, hours, and meal-time activities that range from arts and crafts to parachute launching to egg-and-wooden spoon races. 
The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Ohio Department of Education. Local programs are reimbursed $2.98 per meal.
“All these dollars are just sitting there that the community is not using,” said Kate Sommerfeld, a community impact specialist for United Way, adding that sites receive reimbursement only if children show up and eat.
This year marks the first community-wide push to promote the program, Ms. Sommerfeld said.
CLICK HERE FOR AN INTERACTIVE MAP TO FIND PARTICIPATING FOOD SERVICE PROGRAM LOCATIONS.
Two out of every five Ohio students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, and 37 percent of students in Lucas County qualify based on family income. Last year, 716,084 students received free lunches and 109,385 ate lunch at a reduced price, the National School Lunch Program said.
During the summer, program sites — run through local organizations such as United Way, Feed Lucas County Children, and the YMCA/JCC of Greater Toledo — are placed near schools where at least half the students receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year. 
About 60 children got lunch Friday at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, where program organizers held a public opening kickoff.
Stephanie Cihon, communications manager for ProMedica, said she hoped the public opening would raise awareness about community hunger. The program began this week, which is also National Food Week.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on hunger, nutrition, and family farms, sent a representative to the opening.
“School may be letting out for the summer — but sadly, hunger is a year-round problem in Ohio,” Mr. Brown said in a statement. “For too many of Ohio’s children, the summer break from school can also mean a summer break from good nutrition.”
Kaelyn Schultz, 12, found out about the program because she is employed to work in the garden at her local church, a meal site. She told her mother about the program, and the three Schultz children are now going for lunch every day.
Lori Thompson, food program administrator for the YMCA/JCC of Greater Toledo, said the state funding includes breakfast plus one other meal per site, adding that the YMCA sites do not serve breakfast.
Two of the 13 YMCA sites serve dinner; the remainder serve lunch.
Kaelyn’s brother, Justin, 9, said he would not come to breakfast if his neighborhood site offered it. 
“I’ll probably sleep through breakfast,” he stated matter-of-factly as he perfected his lanyard box stitch.
Sites, staffed with a combination of paid and volunteer workers, serve meals that meet state nutrition guidelines and include milk, fruits and vegetables, grains, and meat.
Ohio Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), who attended the opening, said many children participate in the food program during the school year.
“These same children are in need of a balanced meal at least once per day [during the summer],” she said.
In addition to food, YMCA/JCC “fun buses” load up with arts and crafts, sports equipment, board games, and even face paint and bring the activities to the sites as well as to other events around the city. 
Event organizers said they hoped such activities would draw children in for nutritious food.
Darla Harris, program oordinator for the Wayman Palmer branch of the YMCA/JCC, said the fun bus started running last Monday and would continue until Aug.19, adding that site attendance has been up.
“So far, pretty crowded,” she said.
Aiyana Eason-Gabbard, 5, hard at work at the craft table, said the food was good and she would also come back. Upon finishing her fifth tissue-paper butterfly for a friend, Aiyana was informed by staff member Moira Franchetti that she had cleaned them out of clothespins to hold the butterflies together.
Unperturbed, Aiyana said she would use the round paper to make a sun.
The Summer Food Service Program runs through Aug. 26.

Children in Toledo need not go hungry this summer.

Any child under 18 can receive free meals on weekdays at 40 sites throughout the city, no questions asked. With past meal distribution numbers lower in the summer than during the school year, representatives of Toledo’s Summer Food Service Program say they want to make summer meals more accessible this year.

Students can now call the 211 hotline 24 hours a day for information on the nearest program site, hours, and meal-time activities that range from arts and crafts to parachute launching to egg-and-wooden spoon races. 

The program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Ohio Department of Education. Local programs are reimbursed $2.98 per meal.

“All these dollars are just sitting there that the community is not using,” said Kate Sommerfeld, a community impact specialist for United Way, adding that sites receive reimbursement only if children show up and eat.

This year marks the first community-wide push to promote the program, Ms. Sommerfeld said.

CLICK HERE FOR AN INTERACTIVE MAP TO FIND PARTICIPATING FOOD SERVICE PROGRAM LOCATIONS.

Two out of every five Ohio students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, and 37 percent of students in Lucas County qualify based on family income. Last year, 716,084 students received free lunches and 109,385 ate lunch at a reduced price, the National School Lunch Program said.

During the summer, program sites — run through local organizations such as United Way, Feed Lucas County Children, and the YMCA/JCC of Greater Toledo — are placed near schools where at least half the students receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year. 

About 60 children got lunch Friday at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, where program organizers held a public opening kickoff.

Stephanie Cihon, communications manager for ProMedica, said she hoped the public opening would raise awareness about community hunger. The program began this week, which is also National Food Week.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on hunger, nutrition, and family farms, sent a representative to the opening.

“School may be letting out for the summer — but sadly, hunger is a year-round problem in Ohio,” Mr. Brown said in a statement. “For too many of Ohio’s children, the summer break from school can also mean a summer break from good nutrition.”

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