PILOT MOUNTAIN — Whitaker Chapel United Methodist Church, in a joint effort with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC and Pilot Mountain Outreach Center, is hosting a free lunch for children between the ages of 4 and 18 each Friday this summer through Aug. 8.
The lone exception will be the meal for the July 4 week, which will be held on July 3.
According to Pastor Joseph Fulk, the church will host any youth in attendance for a meal and activities such as games, movies and crafts. Times for the weekly program are from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In addition to lunch, youths will receive a backpack filled with food and a 15-item box of food items to take home to families. Organizers refer to this food to be taken home to families as a key element of the program.
“This is a good program at an important time for families,” said Pilot Mountain Outreach Co-Director Jimmy Caparolie. “We have a big percentage of kids on the free and reduced meal programs and when school is out, that puts more pressure on struggling families. Our numbers always go up in the summer.
“According to federal government statistics,” he continued, “close to 25 percent of children are food insufficient and the numbers for the free and reduced meal program are much higher and probably more accurate.”
“This is a blessed opportunity for us as a church,” Fulk said, “to not just talk about God’s love but to be able to share God’s love. Our Lord specifically said to take care of His children and this is an incredible opportunity to do that.”
The program was launched on Friday, with an estimated 20 meals served.
“We were very pleased,” Fulk said. “It went well. We had a good number to take part and we expect it to continue to grow. All are welcome. This is good for the kids, our church folk and for those from the community who are taking part.”
Caparolie said the center hopes to be able to expand the program into other area communities in time for next summer. He noted that other area churches already have expressed an interest in serving as host sites.
“We could have several,” he said, “and that would allow us to reach more children and more families.
“The biggest drawback for rural communities is for children to have transportation to the sites. In the future, we’d like to also be able to provide transportation.
“With this, we’re feeding children both on-site and in their homes,” Caparolie explained. “That’s meeting the needs of families.”
The church is located at 751 Whitaker Chapel Road in Pilot Mountain.