Lunch in the Park returns with new COVID-19 guidelines
COLUMBIA - Columbia's Lunch in the Park program is back to serve children 18 or younger free, nutritious meals during the summer.
But, it won't look the same as it did in previous years.
"So much has changed this year as everybody can imagine," Director of Development of the Voluntary Action Center, Heather Stewart said. "We are following the CDC guidelines for staying 6 feet apart, our volunteers are wearing masks as they are handing out the food, and we're also this year doing 'take-and-go' lunches, whereas before they had to eat their lunches at one of the tables at the park."
Stewart said the children who come to get lunches are not required to wear a face mask, but she said they do have to practice social distancing with other children.
She said they have seen a decline in how many kids show up to get a free lunch due to Columbia Public Schools also giving out free lunches and because of the current pandemic, but the Lunch in the Park program is still helping parents feed their kids.
Rebecca Smith is a Columbia mother with five boys.
She has been utilizing the program's free lunches for about 10 years now.
"I go everyday it's available," she said. “It helps out with our food budget, it makes sure that all my kids can get their nutrition that they need, even toward the end of the month.”
After ten years of getting free lunches over the summer for her five boys, Smith says the fresh fruit is the best part.
"My kids love the fresh fruits, but I can’t always provide the fresh fruits that they would want," she said. "I usually get the frozen stuff or the canned stuff and that’s not really all that good for their nutrition.”
For more information of Columbia's Lunch in the Park program, visit their website here.