The Columbia County Community Connections staff is asking for help to make sure needy children in the county eat lunch all summer.
The agency has partnered with Action Ministries for the Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program.
“It’s a pretty big undertaking,” Community Connections Executive Director Julie Miller said. “We need everybody’s help. … We want this to really, truly be a community effort.”
Through the program, Miller said she hopes to provide a nutritious lunch for up to 400 children in the county.
Volunteers began preparing and serving lunches to children May 29 at Harlem High School and the Community Connections office at the Harlem City Park.
The children who qualify for the program usually those receiving free or reduced lunches at schools. They typically get a sandwich; a salty snack such as chips, pretzels or crackers; a fruit snack such as dried fruit, apple sauce, fruit cups or roll-ups; and a water or juice drink.
Pat Grice, who oversees the program, said someone has donated bread and snacks for the summer. But she still needs sandwich supplies, such as peanut butter, jelly and lunch meat; brown paper and sealable sandwich bags; and drinks. Monetary donations are welcome and can purchase large amounts of food for cents on the dollar from Golden Harvest Food Bank.
Just as important as the food are the volunteers needed to prepare and distribute the lunches, and churches and other groups to volunteer facilities for feeding and distribution sites. Grice said she hopes the groups offering facilities will also do some sort of enrichment activity with the children.
“We’ve got different opportunities for different people,” Grice said. “If you want to get involved with it as a one-time shot and donate money or food, that’s fine. If you’re wanting to do it one day a week, that’s good, too. We just need the volunteers and the people to help.”
Once more qualified children are identified and more facilities are volunteered, Miller said the number of feeding sites will expand to meet a greater need.
For information on volunteer opportunities, donating or qualifying for the program, call (706) 556-0609, or visit www.connectcolumbia.org.