By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
While summer brings sun and fun for most kids, it also can bring hunger.
That’s why the Ozarks Food Harvest, based in Springfield, has decided it will pick up where school meals leave off with a new Summer Sacks feeding program.
The food bank will provide 10,000 sacks of food to programs that care for area children who are at risk of going hungry. It will begin in late May and continue through the second week of August. The sacks will go out in addition to the food bank’s annual summer food program for children.
“When school ends this month, so do free school lunches,” said Bart Brown, CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest, in a statement. “We want the children we serve not to worry about their next meal this summer so they can enjoy being a kid. As part of our strategic plan, we’ve pledged to provide more meals to at-risk children and this is one way we will accomplish this.”
The Summer Sacks program will provide 60,000 meals in Southwest Missouri.
The bags will be distributed to six sites where children in need receive nutrition.
In this area, the sacks will go to:
• The Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri for children in Jasper and Newton counties.
• The Ozarks Food Harvest mobile food pantry in Carthage to serve River Street Food Pantry clients.
• About Our Kids in Lamar to serve children in the Barton County area.
Food sacks also will be distributed in Springfield and Greene County. Totaled, the food bank will distribute enough sacks to feed about 800 children.
“It is an honor for the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri to pass through these wonderful snack sacks to our children,” said Rhonda Gorham, executive director of the center. “It is a very much-needed resource for our families.”
Gorham said nearly three-fourths of the children who will come to the club this summer receive free or reduced-price lunches.
There are 300 children ages 6 to 18 enrolled in the club’s summer program. They receive breakfast, lunch and a snack at the club. “This will ensure that our kids will have something healthy and easy to prepare during the weekend,” she said of Summer Sacks.
About Our Kids, also called AOK, serves 35 children in its after-school program. The children also are taught about nutrition, resisting alcohol and drugs, and other educational lessons.
Ozark Food Harvest’s regular summer food program is provided at 16 sites in eight counties in the southwest and southern parts of Missouri, where about one-fourth of children, or about 60,000, is estimated to be at risk of going without food at night or on weekends.
Summer feeding sites in this area are at Steadley Elementary School and the Fair Acres YMCA at Carthage, at Diamond Elementary School, and at Monett and Cassville YMCAs, in addition to the Boys and Girls Club in Joplin and at the AOK in Lamar.
AOK recently was named one of 60 winners of $20,000 grants by the corporate office of Wal-Mart in a Fighting Hunger Together campaign.
Both the Boys and Girls Club in Joplin and AOK were nominated for the campaign. Winners were decided by the number of votes received on a Facebook site.
AOK’s executive director, Jerod Morey, had said last month that if the Lamar program won a grant, it would be used to pay for meals for teenagers and to buy a new refrigerator and hand-washing sink for the kitchen at Nathan’s Place, where the AOK program is housed.
The number of Joplin School District students in need of weekend food doubled after the 2011 tornado. The Joplin Schools Foundation’s Snack Pack program, which provides food for low-income elementary school pupils to take home on weekends, increased from approximately 300 to 600 this year.