Local children can receive free meals during summer season

Amanda Wilkinson, Online Editor

Children in Charleston and Ashmore can receive free meals throughout the summer as part of the Summer Meal Program, facilitated by the Student Community Service Office and the Mattoon Salvation Army.

Rachel Fisher, the director of student community service, said the meal program is a way to provide supplemental meals for children during the summer when they normally would be receiving a meal at school.

The meals they provide are part of a national summer meal program in which the local Salvation Army is reimbursed for the meals they provide, she said. The Salvation Army already provides meals at 10 different sites in Mattoon.

Fisher said those at the Salvation Army cook and prepare the food and then volunteers pick it up and disburse it.

“We try to provide something like that,” Fisher said. “We serve Monday through Friday, every day throughout the summer from the moment school ends to the moment school start again.”

The volunteers for the program provide meals from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. at the pavilion in North Park in Charleston and from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the pavilion in the Village Park in Ashmore.

While this is only the second year they are participating in the meal program, Fisher said they are providing more and more meals every day.

“We just started last week so last Monday was our very first day. We were thrilled that we were able to serve 250 meals last week,” she said.

Samantha Sarich, a political science graduate student and a volunteer, said since they moved from Kiwanis Park last year, they have been serving many more meals to children.

Kendra Moultrie, a senior sociology major and intern for the office, said the meals they have provided hit on every important food group.

Even though the program is about providing meals to children in the community, it is much more than that, Fisher said.

“What I love is that it’s really about food, friends and fun,” she said. “It’s really an opportunity for kids to see each other and hang out when they might not to.”

It is also a good opportunity for the volunteers to interact with the children.

“It really allows them to make connections with the kids and that’s so important for us,” Fisher said. “We are filling your nutritional need but some social need as well.”

Amanda Wilkinson can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]