Sixty-two people logged into Wednesday night’s ZOOM launch of the 2020 Feed Our Kids season. The 62 people represented hundreds of others who will serve more than 30,000 lunches during the 11-week campaign beginning June 1 and ending August 14.
GRACE Chief Executive Officer Shonda Schaefer addressed the collage of faces, many people who have been a part of the Feed Our Kids program for years. Most faces were smiling, most were eager. Some were questioning. Still others seemed fearful.
“It never once dawned on us to cancel Feed Our Kids,” said Shonda. With coronavirus fears easing, but still top-of-mind, Shonda said the past eight weeks have taught us to be “proactive, flexible, and logical in the ways we adjust programming” to meet the current environment.
“We’ve had to rethink everything we do, why we do it, and how we can modify processes in order to continue meeting our standards of excellence, stewardship, and service,” she said. Shonda recognized Feed Our Kids Coordinator Lori Stevens and GRACE Chief Program Officer Stacy Pacholick. “I am proud of our team and the creative and ingenious ways they have stepped up to meet this unprecedented crisis.”
“As a community,” said Shonda, “We are now all being challenged to imagine what this new reality will look like. We are beginning to plan for the future, knowing that it is still very uncertain.”
Fortunately, for nearly two decades, GRACE and hundreds of volunteers have offered a healthy lunch each day over the summer to children who are on the school district’s Free & Reduced lunch program.
Also, fun activities, games, and interaction with adults and peers are just as important to the children who typically do not attend camps, daycare facilities and other enrichment opportunities.
Some of the changes taking place this summer include:
- Lunches will be offered as a “grab-n-go” distribution if possible. Brown bags filled with a healthy meal is best, but any form of providing kids lunches that they are able to take back to their homes is the goal.
- Volunteer groups will be asked to modify their menus to include single-serve products rather than buffet.
- Volunteer Groups will be invited to staff only the number of people necessary to operate the lunch distribution and activities.
- Volunteers at each site will receive a “Personal Protection Kit” including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, spray disinfectant, paper towels, and other hygiene supplies.
- Personal Protection Kits will be refilled each week to make sure our volunteers can stay safe.
- Each Feed Our Kids site will have more tables and seating areas for recommended spacing. The goal is for children who wish to stay in the Feed Our Kids area to eat can do so in family groups.
- Activities are encouraged with modifications in place to ensure spacing of at least 6 feet. Games and activities will restrict personal contact—tag, face painting, and other activities requiring close interaction are prohibited.
“However, if we are creative,” said Shonda, “We can come up with other activities just as fun for the kids.” Ideas may include sidewalk chalk games, foot races, charades, scavenger hunts, and other activities.
“I’m excited to see how our volunteers can get creative!” said Shonda.
Wednesday night’s special guest, Katia Gonzalez from the Alliance for Children, made clear the value of a program like Feed Our Kids. The Alliance for Children is dedicated to the protection and healing of child abuse victims.
With the stress of furloughs, layoffs, and safety issues pressuring many people, domestic violence has increased in recent weeks. Added to that, children are not in school where teachers and others can notice signs of abuse.
“Putting eyes on these children every day is important,” Shonda said. “Almost as important as feeding.”
Beginning June 1, volunteers will visit six sites, five-days a week, to feed children who may go hungry otherwise. For many of these children, this may be their only meal of the day.
- 610 Shady Brook Drive (Old GRACE Main)
- Community Outreach Center on Mustang Drive
- Courtyard Apartment Complex on Mustang Drive
- 121 Church on Ira E. Woods Drive
- 837 East Walnut Street (GRACE Food Pantry/ Ticknor Terrace)
- King Street Trailer Park (Drop Off Only)
Feed Our Kids manager Lori Stevens said volunteers are still needed to adopt a day, a few days or a whole week, especially later in the summer months.
If you are interested, or would like more information, contact Lori Stevens at 817-992-4690.