LOGAN – The summer feeding program offered by Southeast Ohio Foodbank and Kitchen has been operating in full force to alleviate hunger during the summer months.

According to Asti Payne, development coordinator, for Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Agency listed the following hunger statistics:

“In our 10-county region in Southeast Ohio which includes Athens, Gallia, Hocking, Jackson, Lawrence, Meigs, Morgan, Perry, Vinton, Washington, one in four kids are considered food insecure, meaning they do not have enough food for a healthy life. That means we have over 18,000 hungry kids in our communities with an estimated 1,800 hungry children registered in Hocking County.

“Summertime causes additional problems for struggling families because kids aren’t getting that free or reduced lunch from the school that they do when school is in session, making budgets tighter.

“In addition to kids being out of school, some families may also have kids moving home from college – meaning an additional mouth to feed during the summer months,” Payne said.

During the school year, 22 million kids nationwide receive free or reduced price school meals, but only 16 percent of these children receive food assistance through a summer feeding site.

In an effort to address hunger issues, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank & Kitchen has several unique programs to increase the access children in our communities have to healthy meals.

“The traditional Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free, lunchtime meals to any child 18 years of age and under. This summer we have nearly 40 summer feeding sites across Athens, Hocking, Perry, and Vinton counties,” she said.

“There are no income guidelines or enrollment forms for kids to eat at these sites. This is a federal program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and operated by the Ohio Department of Education.

“On average, our traditional summer feeding program is serving over 1,000 kids per day. On Fridays, summer feeding sites provide weekend meals to ensure the kids have access to food until the summer feeding sites open again on Mondays.

“These weekend meals are possible through a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Association of Foodbanks,” Payne explained.

Payne said the Ohio Agricultural Clearance Program directs surplus and unmarketable agricultural products from more than 100 Ohio farmers and producers through the state’s network of foodbanks onto the tables of Ohio families.

“We hand out this produce at bulk produce distributions referred to as Mobile Farmers’ Markets. This summer we have hosted four Mobile Farmers’ Markets (three which have been in Hocking County) and distributed approximately 10,000 pounds of produce,” she added.

“The fresh produce is also incorporated in our Rural Summer Feeding Program, Innovative Summer Feeding Program, and with our mobile summer feeding sites. Last year, 1.3 million pounds of produce was distributed throughout the year,” Payne continued.

In addition, the Southeast Ohio Foodbank and Kitchen operates a rural summer feeding program as well.

“Because some children in rural areas experience barriers to participating in the traditional summer feeding program (rural geographic areas and transportation barriers), we operate a bulk food distribution once a week for families in Athens County.

“Rather than a family driving to town (some having upwards of an hour drive-time roundtrip) five days a week, a family can come once a week to pick up a box of 11 nutritious meals, which includes lunch for five weekdays and breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two weekend days, and one 32 ounce shelf-stable milk.

“This program serves 300 children in Trimble Local and Nelsonville-York Local School Districts. This program is possible thanks to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Ohio Department of Education.

“We also do fresh produce distributions with the food boxes each week. We expect to serve 29,700 meals this summer through this program,” she said.

Payne noted that the Southeast Ohio Foodbank and Kitchen received a $40,000 grant from Feeding America, which has allowed them to develop an additional innovative summer feeding program.

“Thanks to the ConAgra Foods Foundation we are able to distribute bulk food boxes once a week in six counties for summer,” Payne added. “For the same reasons as mentioned with the rural summer feeding program, and using the same model, we are able to provide 360 elementary-age children across Gallia, Jackson, Vinton, Meigs, Morgan, and Washington counties with a weekly box of shelf-stable meals.

“We expect to distribute approximately 39,600 meals this summer through this program. We also do fresh produce distributions with the food boxes each week,” she stated.

In addition, through a collaboration with Ohio Christian University (OCU) and a grant from No Kid Hungry and the Arby’s Foundation, they are doing ‘pop-up’ summer feeding sites in some of the more rural counties with the use of a mobile kitchen.

“OCU is providing the mobile kitchen, a staff member, and a volunteer to travel to rural areas that do not have a central location to have a traditional summer feeding site. With the grant, tents, tables, and benches were purchased to create a pop-up feeding site,” she noted.

“The mobile kitchen runs every Tuesday to Gallia County to a low-income housing complex, as well as serving Vinton County at Wyman Park. The mobile kitchen allows us to provide hot meals, while reaching children who would not otherwise have access to a summer feeding site.

“To date, over 150 kids have been reached and provided a hot nutritious meal, while we also host fresh produce distributions at the sites each week and provide weekend meals,” she said.

Payne said that the community can get involved in a number or ways.

“Volunteers are always welcomed and needed. We hold public packing events two Saturdays a month during summer season to invite the community to assist us in packing food boxes, sorting through donated product, and other tasks.

“We could also use volunteers at our summer feeding sites and food box distributions during the week. Volunteers can also be connected to our local member agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens) in their communities to help with their operations. Finally, we are always looking for volunteers with specific skills; photography, graphics, painting and grant writing to name a few.

“ If people are unable to volunteer their services perhaps they may want to make a donation to our organization. For every $1 we receive, we can provide five meals to hungry families in our community.

“Folks can also choose to sponsor a mobile farmers market; groups, companies, corporations, and individuals can sign up to sponsor a mobile farmers market in their community.

“Cost to sponsor the produce distribution depends on location, but typically ranges between $150 to $300 per mobile farmers market. By sponsoring a produce distribution in your community, you can ensure families and children have access to fresh, nutritional food that is critical for a healthy diet,” she concluded.

For additional information, contact Asti Payne at 740-385-6813 ext. 2212 or email asti.payne@hapcap.org.

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