Jefferson City church provides free meals to community
JEFFERSON CITY - The Second Christian Church community has rallied to provide daily free lunches to any children regardless of financial need.
More than 50 children came into the church between 12-1 p.m. Thursday. After taking down their ages, volunteers handed them a sack lunch consisting of a sandwich, a drink, and snacks - no questions asked.
"Kids know they are in need, they know when they go home that they don't have enough to eat, and so to be able to come down here in a safe and happy environment, it makes them happy," said Latayna Roundtree, a member of the church outreach program.
The church is in its second week of serving the community. Last week it served more than 222 meals.
In previous years, a Boys and Girls Club was situated nearby that served daily meals. Due to construction this year, the Boys and Girls Club was moved out of the neighborhood and the church stepped in to meet the anticipated gap.
"It's hard when you have four or five children at home all day and your income is low and trying to make sure they're fed," said Kimberly Washington, an elder at Second Christian Church. "When we feed them a nutritious meal in the afternoon then all they will have to worry about is feeding them dinner."
Members of the Second Christian Church congregation donate food, as does sister churches in the area.
"We took it upon ourselves to be able to feed the kids off donations," Roundtree said.
Pastor Vernell Weston said the church is servicing members of the community members have never seen before.
"Not only is it reaching the children, but its reaching to the parent. The parents are seeing that, they're embracing it," Weston said.
Missouri students enrolled in summer school at places, like Columbia public schools, can receive free and reduced lunch based on their financial needs.
No financial requirements are needed at the Second Christian Church. Nor are any needed at open sites throughout Missouri that provide meals to children during specific hours.
Open sites can be organized by churches, organizations, or government entities.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' Summer Food Service Program provides a map of open sites throughout the state. The hot meals provided by the varying groups are funded through the USDA.
Roundtree said, without free lunches, she suspects many families would just do without.
Second Christian Church will continue to provide free meals until school begins in the fall. It is also considering extending the program to Saturdays when school is in session.