Children are always excited for summer vacation. Most people think of summer as a time to relax, spend time with family, hang out at the beach or pool, etc. But for many people the summer months come with an increased worry about providing food. In Pitt County, over 13,500 children receive free or reduced lunches during the school year. This option is not available when school is out, which puts a financial burden on many families.
This summer, The Campus Kitchen at East Carolina University (CKECU) will be working with the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to provide lunches twice a week to Operation Sunshine, an after-school and summer program for local girls, aged 5-13. (See USDA Program Helping Kids Get Through the Summer). These lunches will not only meet Campus Kitchens standards but will also meet national nutritional guidelines. Each child will receive a bagged lunch with all of the established components, including milk, two fruits/vegetables, a grain, and a meat or meat alternate.
The Summer Food Service Program through CKECU will be managed by Chelsey Bennett (AmeriCorps VISTA and CKECU Coordinator), with assistance from Zachary Baker (Health Services Management Junior). Zach is a work-study student with the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center at ECU and has undergone training to be a CKECU Shift Leader for the 2012-2013 academic year.
“After volunteering with CKECU multiple times, I wanted to step up, gain some leadership skills, and give others the experience I had as a volunteer,” says Zach. “I received free or reduced lunches in middle school and high school, and I know how much this food is needed and will be much appreciated by the girls at Operation Sunshine.” Zach will co-lead all of the lunch prep shifts this summer. He will also be responsible for some of the office work related to the Summer Food Service Program.
According to Chelsey, “Any new program has a learning curve, but I think we’re prepared for anything. It has been a long process to even get approved as a SFSP Sponsor. Now that we are, I’m just excited to really get started.”
CKECU summer operations will run from late June to middle August. During the academic year, CKECU produces an average of 160 meals per month. Working with the SFSP will allow CKECU to produce a max of 150 meals per week.
Throughout the summer, Zach and the other student leaders will be compiling their thoughts and reactions, which will be included in future blog entries.