New partnership to improve free summer lunch program for Columbia kids
COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia and a local food bank are collaborating to improve the annual free lunch programs for kids this summer.
In the past, the Public Health and Human Services Department and Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri ran their own separate programs. This year, the two are working together in hopes of providing as many nutritious meals to as many kids possible.
Eric Maly, the director of programs for The Food Bank, said its program is designed as an extension of the federal free and reduced lunch program.
"There was a gap when school was out to make sure that kids are getting healthy lunches, so that's really where it started," he said.
Maly said another goal of the program this summer is to de-stigmatize free food programs by adding activities and educational programs to the lunches.
"Kids shouldn't feel shameful about wanting to have lunch," he said.
Maly said the collaboration emerged as a strategic plan based on site turnouts last year. In 2017, the Food Bank had five locations where its "Summer Food Service Program" ran. Some locations only had five kids on average showing up.
He said the department's "Lunch In The Park" program has historically high turnouts.
"We figured out how to partner so hopefully they're not taking such a big burden and we're able to take these kids that are closer to these other neighborhoods."
There are four new sites for the Food Bank's lunch program:
- Bear Creek Park, 1402 Elleta Blvd.
- Derby Ridge Elementary, 4000 Derby Ridge Drive
- McKee Street Park, 1900 McKee St.
- West Middle School, 401 Clinkscales Road
The programs are still run separately, each with its own staff and volunteers.
The city's program will begin on Monday, June 4th and run through August 3. Food will be served at the Douglass Park location, 400 N. Providence Road, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The food bank's lunches will start Monday, July 2 and run through August 10. In addition to the four locations above, it will serve lunch at two old sites:
- Indian Hills Park, 5009 Aztec Blvd.
- Valleyview Park, 2210 Garden Drive