It takes a village to raise a child and the same could be said for feeding kids, based on a program in Mount Airy which has achieved special recognition from city officials.
The Summer Food Service Program this year resulted in 31,760 meals being served to local children who otherwise might have gone without, which included 19,575 lunches, 2,947 breakfasts and 9,238 snacks.
It is a federally funded, state-administered program operated here through the child nutrition division of Mount Airy City Schools. The program recognizes that while children benefit from breakfast and lunch programs during the school year, a void exists in the summer when classes are not in session.
The program reimburses providers who serve free healthy meals to young children and teens in low-income areas during those months. An average of 721 meals were distributed locally during each day of the program.
However, the school system was not the only entity involved in the feeding effort, which is where the “village” enters the picture.
“We had a very busy summer,” said city schools Director of Child Nutrition Celena Watson, who was quick to add that the program would not have reached as many children as it did without “great” community partners and volunteers.
These included two city government departments along with the local church and business communities, representatives of which were recognized by Mayor David Rowe and the city commissioners during a meeting last week.
“This is a very special program,” Rowe said in expressing official city appreciation to those involved, “and we all agree no one should be hungry.”
Statistics show that one in four children in North Carolina go hungry every day.
Among those recognized during the commissioners’ meeting were:
• The Mount Airy Police Department, which for the third year this summer delivered meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays in low-income housing communities. Department members involved included Chief Dale Watson, Capt. Alan Freeman, Capt. Barry VanHoy and community police officers Stacy Inman, Gerald Daniel and Garrett Chamberlain.
• Mount Airy Parks and Recreation, which delivered meals to the public housing neighborhoods on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Staff members participating were Catrina Alexander, the parks and recreation director; Darren Lewis, assistant director; Shannon Phillips; Fonda Branch; and Rebecca Venable.
• Child nutrition managers of city schools, who prepared the food and handled most of the required federal documentation. Staff members involved included Cookie Boggs, Tommye Phillips, Sharon Jones and Vickie Bowman.
• The local Lowe’s hardware store, which supplied volunteers to help pack meals several days each week, including Manager Neil Cothran and several of his staff members.
• Grace Moravian and First Presbyterian churches, which had various members involved in the summer feeding program.
• City Finance Director Pam Stone, who was instrumental in recruiting volunteers for the effort.
While the recipients of the meals gained nourishment, those delivering the food have found that they also benefit, according to Police Chief Watson.
“You just don’t know what a blessing you get from helping others less fortunate,” he said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.