Summer food programs feed need


Greater Jasper Schools will offer a summer food program for the first time this summer.

The program will be through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. The program will offer free lunch to anyone 18 years of age and under daily at Tenth Street Elementary School beginning Tuesday, May 28. Greater Jasper’s program is one of several summer food programs in the county.

“It’s been something on our radar for a couple years,” said Katie Knies, food service director for Greater Jasper.

Knies said she expects between 100 and 200 kids daily, with many coming from summer school and summer camp programs. But she also knows that some kids coming will come from food-insecure homes that will depend on the program for a nutritious, balanced meal over the summer.

“That’s something people don’t typically think about in our community,” Knies said.

Southwest Dubois also offers daily lunch meals through the USDA program at Huntingburg Elementary School. That program has been going for six years, according to Southwest Dubois Food Service Director Ora Lee Cotton.

“It’s not a lot of families, but we do have families that come in on a daily basis and eat lunch,” Cotton said.

Southwest Dubois’ program also offers meals for summer school and summer camp students.

Under the USDA program, schools are reimbursed for the meals they provide to kids 18 years of age and under. Adults can eat, too, but they must pay for their meal.

In Indiana, the Indiana Department of Education oversees the Summer Food Service Program. According to the IDOE website, 2.7 million meals were served at 1,400 feeding sites statewide in 2018. This year, the IDOE will have 1,000 food service locations statewide.

“We know many families are in need in Indiana, in fact nearly 48% of our school families are on free or reduced lunch,” said Adam Baker, press secretary at the IDOE. “So what do these families do when school is not in session? It can be difficult and a strain and stress on families already just trying to survive. The summer food program makes it possible for families to find food outside of the school year. To us, that makes a difference.”

There will also be several summer food programs in the area outside of the USDA program.

For kids in the Holland area, the Holland United Methodist Church will offer a program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The church’s goal is to fill the need met by Holland Elementary’s backpack buddies program during the school year. That program sends bags of food home with students in need during the school year, but doesn’t operate in the summer.

Two local libraries will also offer a summer food program. The Jasper Public Library will offer a snack from 2 to 3 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. At the Birdseye Branch Library, kids will be able to get a snack from 3 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Birdseye Library’s program will run off donations. Anyone interested in donating to the program should contact the library at 812-389-1030.

Snacks at both library programs will include a juice and food item, such as a bagel or yogurt.

Community CHEW (Child Hunger Ending Workshop) will again offer its program from noon to 3 p.m. on Thursdays at Jasper Middle School starting June 6. The nonprofit targets food-insecure children in the community, but any student in kindergarten through eighth grade is eligible. Students in the program receive a hot meal, exciting activities, a Christian message and weekly service projects to give back to the community.

Community CHEW also offers a shuttle service with pickups at four Jasper locations: Jasper Lofts on Dewey Street, the Dubois Apartments, Maple Grove Village and Bohnert Park.
This year, Community CHEW is also setting up a community garden at Maple Grove that the residents will be able to use to get fresh produce. Students from Community CHEW will tend the garden each week.

In addition to the meal and activities, Community CHEW also lets students take home a shopping bag of food. This year, the students will be able to select items, rather than getting a pre-packed bag.

“Students will be able to pack what their family needs, so that’s a little bit different,” said founder Cassie Williams.

Community CHEW is still in need of volunteers for this summer. Anyone interested can apply through the program’s Facebook page.

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