Summer meals to continue

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Despite the recent close at Charleston’s Teen Reach center, Eastern’s Student Community Service office, in partnership with Salvation Army, will continue with the free summer meals program.

Rachel Fisher, the director of student community service, said the summer meals program is one of the best ways to reach out to students and teens as well as reconnect with them. She said the program is in its third summer overall with the upcoming summer being the second for Ashmore.

The summer meals program offers a free lunch Monday through Friday outside of school to those up to the age of 18. This season’s program will begin June 3 to August 17 in Charleston and Ashmore.

Because the program will be at two locations, Charleston’s will be at 12:30 p.m. in North Park and Ashmore’s is at 11:30 a.m. at the Ashmore Community Park.

“It’s a county-wide response to youth hunger in the summer,” Fisher said.

Fisher said the program is a partnership with Mattoon’s Salvation Army and the community service office. Salvation army prepares the food and because Ashmore is close to Charleston they were included.

“The (Ashmore) community was very enthusiastic about it,” Fisher said.

Fisher said on average, they serve around 80 meals a day during the summer program and it’s a great way to connect with the kids.

However, with Teen Reach being closed because of a lack of funding, it made it harder to have a more direct connection with the teenagers who went through the program.

Fisher said one of the benefits to having teen reach was it would start the day by going to the summer meal site first and that allowed them to provide a free lunch, but also provide Eastern a way to interact with the teens. She said despite teen reach being gone, they hope for the teens to still make their way over to the summer meal program knowing it’s still ran by the same people.

Fisher said teen reach was a good resource for the community and it was also a very popular volunteer area for students at Eastern.

“The loss of teen reach was felt very quickly and deeply,” Fisher said.

Currently, the Illinois Coalition of Community Service is attempting to refund teen reach so they can reopen, Fisher said.

Fisher said this summer they will try to incorporate different activities for those in the program such as water balloon fights. She said they did this activity as something fun last year and because of its success they are making it now a regular aspect of the program this summer.

The goal for this summer is to serve 100 meals a day and around 5,000 for the overall summer.


Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]