When I think of summer, I envision care-free kids consumed by fireflies, bicycles, ice cream cones and make-believe, building tree-house forts and running barefoot through the sprinklers.  Unfortunately, June and July can be the hardest part of the year for thousands of kids in Oklahoma who struggle with hunger.  This is because when school ends in May, so do the free and reduced price meals provided by the School Lunch Program.  For the children who normally rely on these meals for nourishment, the summer months can be a dismal and desperate time.

In an effort to make certain that adventure and bliss reign throughout the summer, and to alleviate worry and doubt for hungry kids, the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma operates the Summer Feeding Program.  From June 1st through July 29th, all kids ages 1-18 years, can visit the26 designated Summer Feeding Sites throughout the metro area to receive free, fresh and nutritious sack lunches.  The lunches vary from cold-cut deli subs one day to veggie wraps the next, but each sack always includes a fresh fruit or vegetable, whole grains, protein and a choice of milk.  The food is prepared daily in a central kitchen at Martin Luther King Elementary where a team of AMAZING cooks receive, assemble and package enough sack lunches to feed any kid who needs a meal.  The meals are then picked up and delivered to the sites by a team of AWESOME drivers who make sure that the food is delivered safely and on time.

As the new Programs Director for the Community Initiatives Department at the Regional Food Bank, I was recently able to see this incredible program in action.  I visited Martin Luther King Elementary where the cooks had just finished making 1,500 turkey sandwiches!  I had never seen so many brown-bagged lunches before! In addition to preparing the fresh meals for all 26 Summer Feeding Sites, Martin Luther King Elementary serves breakfast and lunch to around 150 kids a day.

I also visited the Capitol Hill Center, an Oklahoma City Play in the Parks site.  When I arrived I was shocked by the number of kids I saw.  According to the site coordinator, there were 130 kids there that day! It was an exceptionally hot day, but the relentless Oklahoma sun was no hindrance to the running, jumping, chasing and climbing that was going on. When the adults blew the whistle for lunch, I was flabbergasted to see all 130 kids line up single file and wait patiently for their sack lunch.  I guess they worked up a good appetite!  As a Registered Dietitian, I was delighted to see the kids enjoying fresh peaches so much so that juice was dripping from each of their chins!  This is just one of the many nutritious and delicious foods served by the Regional Food Bank and the Summer Food Service Program to kids in the metro area.  With a good meal in their bellies, these kids get to focus on being a kid rather than being hungry.

Gina Stone

Gina Stone

Gina Stone is the Programs Director for Community Initiatives at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. She is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters degree in Dietetics from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
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