There are countless children throughout Oklahoma that live with the uncertainty of meals with the exception of meals served at their prospective schools and that uncertainty heightens once school lets out for summer break. According to nokidhungry.org, there are 312,000 low-income children in Oklahoma who receive a free or reduced-price school lunch and only four percent of those children are getting summer meals. In Jackson County there are 4,230 food insecure people as stated by the Regional Food Bank, among that number are children.
The Jackson County Community Health Team (JCCHT) recognized that this gap exists and partnered with Southwestern Youth Services, Inc. (SWYS) in an effort to bridge the gap, of children not having meals during the summer months. SWYS then wrote a grant to partner with the Oklahoma Food Bank to get meals for the youth.
“While the program began as a means to meet the needs of youth who are dependent upon the Altus Public School for meals, it quickly grew into a lunch program for all youth ages 18 years and younger,” said Kim Bryant, SWYS Executive Director.
The building commonly known as “The Old Rotary” is the location where a free lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., for all youth ages 18 and under.
Victorian Cleveland worked tirelessly to help recruit volunteers to assist with serving meals. With the assistance of the volunteers who have helped to promote the program through word of mouth, distributing fliers, to engaging the youth in conversation, the program continues to grow.
The only requirement to enjoy a free lunch is that the youth is 18 years of age or younger. All youth are welcome to the Rotary to enjoy lunch, games, and conversation. Anyone knowing of a child or children whose family may be struggling and a free meal for their child(ren) throughout the week would help ease the burden, you are encouraged to inform them of the Summer Food Program at the Old Rotary Building in the Altus City Park on Cypress Street.
For more information contact Southwestern Youth Services, Inc. at (580) 482-2809.