Summer food program ensures Latino kids eat healthy
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
June 17, 2014: Latino children and others have an opportunity to obtain free nutritious meals this summer at nearly 100 neighborhood sites across Lucas County. More than 400,000 meals are expected to be served while school’s out for the summer in metro Toledo.
The Summer Food Program combines federal funds administered by the Ohio Dept. of Education with community donations. Locations of the meal sites are based on proximity to schools in which at least 50 percent of the students receive free or reduced-cost lunches during the school year, which includes all but four TPS schools.
“It’s critically important to feed our kids healthy, nutritious meals. We see the health effects of hunger in our pediatric offices and emergency rooms every single day,” said Stephanie Chihon, ProMedica community outreach coordinator at a press conference held at Rogers High School Wednesday, June 18, 2014.
“The Summer Food Program is making a difference in our community and we hope to make even more of an impact this summer,” said Dr. Romules Durant, TPS superintendent.
Sites are staffed with a combination of paid staff and volunteers and will serve one or more meals, including breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and/or an early dinner, depending on the location. The food will meet state guidelines and include: milk, fruits, vegetables, grains/bread, and meat.
The lunchtime meal during the press conference consisted of a sandwich, carrots, a banana, milk or orange juice, and applesauce.
“Anytime you can get this type of collective work from the community to address a collective problem, such as summer hunger and summer enrichment, it’s a win-win: a win for the district, a win for the community,” said Dr. Durant.
“In Lucas County, more than 26,000 kids are facing food insecurity—and that means they may not know where their next meal is coming from,” said Laura Roether, health manager for the United Way of Greater Toledo.
Academic enrichment will accompany the free meals at 26 Toledo Public Schools (TPS) sites. The so-called “summer slide,” where students tend to regress on what they’ve learned during the school year, is recognized to be especially prevalent in low-income families.
“Data shows that children who are not typically able to participate in enrichment classes, camps, field trips, and other family activities during the summer lose up to three months of the learning as they re-enter the fall year,” said Dr. Bruce Groves, a board member for the YMCA/JCC of Greater Toledo.
ProMedica, Mercy Health Partners, The Andersons, local food banks, and others have provided funding and staff support to the annual summer feeding program, which also includes recreational activities for kids.
Marriah Kornowa, community outreach coordinator for Molina Healthcare, one of five managed-care plans in Ohio, presented the gathering with a $5,000 check to help provide more meals for needy kids, who usually rely on breakfast and lunch served at school.
The program will run until August 15. Any family interested in participating can learn more by dialing 211.