School districts working to reach more kids in summer food program
Many of the over 180 sites providing food to low-income kids across the state this summer will close their doors Friday – weeks before school resumes.
But Colonial School District’s Nutrition Services Manager Tammy Roop says they’ve been able to keep some of their sites open through next week.
That includes Eisenberg Elementary, where UD students have been teaching kids about nutrition and exercise. It’s part of Colonial’s ongoing effort to engage more kids in the fourth year of its summer food program, funded by the USDA. The food is offered no questions asked, but designed for low-income kids under 18.
Roop says since more kids show up for lunch than breakfast, they’ve started new lunchtime activities for the kids like food art, and on-site farmers markets for parents.
“They really appreciate getting low-cost fresh produce that they normally wouldn’t either see at the store, or be able to get at the store…so that’s been huge for us," Roop said.
There’s also a library nook in Eisenberg’s cafeteria where kids can take home books. That’s another addition this year.
Roop adds they’re heading into the community more too, with food drop off sites at a couple of apartment complexes, including Pine Valley Apartments and William Penn Village Apartments as well as parks like Coventry Park and Dobbinsville Park.
“Because of where they’re located – they can’t get to Eisenberg, they can’t get to McCullough," Roop said. "So we figured we’d go south, where there’s no school there where we can open. So we just bring it to them. We find because of transportation – a lot of people are on busses – so it’s easier for us to get it to them, and we’re still feeding kids.”
Roop hopes to expand the number of these mobile sites next year. And she says Colonial will offer free dinners to kids who stay after school for the first time this upcoming school year - in addition to breakfasts and lunches.
“We feed all the time, but that’s what we’re here for," Roop said. "There’s a need: these kids need to eat. And we want to help out the parents, and that’s what it’s for. We tell them in the morning, you’ve gotta start eating breakfast because that’s how your brain starts.”
According to 2015 data from the Kids Count Data Center, 39,000 First State kids – about 19% of Delaware students – live in poverty at the 100% federal poverty level. About 15,000 First State kids – or 8% - live in extreme poverty.