No school means no classes, but for some it means something else: no meals during the day.
Only about 15% of Virginia’s children who rely on free- or reduced-price school lunches are also getting free meals through summer programs. Fourteen organizations across the commonwealth received funding from No Kid Hungry Virginia to support free summer meal sites through the nonprofit’s latest grants. In total, $87,750 was distributed. Only $450 of that went to Franklin County Public Schools.
Franklin County Public Schools runs a meal program during the summer months at various locations including the main branch of the Franklin County Public Library, Candlewood Apartments, Lee M. Waid Elementary, Franklin County High School, Benjamin Franklin Middle School—east and west— Rocky Mount Elementary, Inner Faith Fellowship Ministries, Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church and Antioch Church of the Brethren.
Heather Snead, Coordinator of Food Service and Nutrition for Franklin County Public Schools, said the program provides hot meals for kids in the district Mondays through Thursdays.
“We try to pick their favorites from the school year; hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets,” Snead said. “Those things go over pretty well.”
The program is funded by the school district and Snead said she didn’t have a cost available but said last summer the program provided 17,195 lunches, 11,809 breakfasts and nearly 3,000 snacks between May and August.
She said which meals are served vary by site to meet the needs of the children in that area.
“For example we have an apartment complex that felt their children wouldn’t be up in time for breakfast so they opted to serve lunch and an afternoon snack,” Snead said.
The food is prepared at Franklin County High School and taken to the various sites.
“Our main purpose is to feed the kids,” Snead said. “I don’t want any child to go hungry during the summer.”
Virginia’s No Kid Hungry program makes grant money available to school districts to provide food for kids in need. Snead applied for and received $450 to fund a tent for kids at Candlewood Apartments to dine under since the apartment complex does not have a community room. She said the summer food program is always in need of new coolers so she also plans to purchase coolers with the funds as well.
Snead said she is looking into adding a site in Henry as there is a need in the area.
Henry Fork Service Center runs an independent program in Rocky Mount. Executive Director Lisa Nichols said they serve hot meals Monday – Friday throughout the summer to children under the age of 18.
“There are no questions asked,” Nichols said. “There are no income guidelines, no paperwork. We are an equal opportunity provider and we are handicap accessible.”
Most of the 3,600 meals served at Henry Fork have been to children enrolled in the summer program. Nichols said the venue is an open site for meals but they have served very few children who aren’t enrolled in the program there.
“We are right down the street from a large trailer park, but we have very few kids who take advantage of the meals,” Nichols said adding they have been a summer meal provider for more than 10 years.
She also takes pride in serving the children hot meals instead of sandwiches. “The first experience I had with summer meals was cold chicken nuggets—no wonder the kids didn’t want to take advantage,” Nichols said.
She said she even refrains from serving cereal for breakfast and opts for biscuits and gravy or French toast.
The Summer Food Program is reimbursed by the Virginia Department of Education, which pays for the cost of the food, one cook and one aide along with some of the utilities.
For hours and location visit www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.