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Weekend Food, Delivered Meals, Mobile Markets Feeding Ohio Kids

PHOTO: Hunger-fighting programs in Ohio are using innovative ways to distribute food to needy children, including mobile farmers markets and extra food for weekends. Photo credit: Anita Peppers/morguefile.
PHOTO: Hunger-fighting programs in Ohio are using innovative ways to distribute food to needy children, including mobile farmers markets and extra food for weekends. Photo credit: Anita Peppers/morguefile.
August 4, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Some of Ohio's most vulnerable children have not had empty bellies this summer, as a result of some innovative programs.

The federally-funded Summer Food Service Program is unable to meet the needs of all children who receive free and reduced-priced meals during the school year. So, programs funded through Gov. John Kasich's office are trying to fill the gap this year.

Susan Rogers, who co-directs the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, says its meal delivery program makes sure food gets to kids in rural areas who may be unable to travel to a summer food site.

"For many of these families, it's really life-sustaining," says Rogers. "We actually had one family on Monday really glad to see that box come, because they had run out of food in their home and had not had anything since Sunday at lunchtime to eat."

The Summer Weekend Meals Program provides additional food to children in summer food programs to take home for weekends, and Mobile Farmers Markets are providing fresh produce to food service sites. It's estimated that in Ohio this summer, 600,000 weekend meals were provided to children, 220,000 meals were delivered to homes, and more than 1.25 million pounds of fresh produce were distributed.

Rogers calls the programs a blessing for many Ohio families.

"A lot of people don't realize just how many folks are having it tough and are skimping on meals," she says. "The parents are skimping on food for themselves so that their children can have it."

A recent Food Research and Action Center report found just one in ten eligible children in Ohio accesses summer meals. Carol Whitmer, food program manager for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says it is more proof of the growing need to expand summer food services.

"These programs are great, but there's still work that needs to be done," Whitmer says. "We can always use more funding to carry these programs out, so we can reach every child that would qualify for one of these programs and needs food over the summertime."

Whitmer says hunger-fighting groups will work over the next year to further expand options. She hopes the programs can eventually be made permanent, with funding through the state or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH