The folks at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church are helping feed hungry kids this summer by offering a free lunch program.
Daniel Wright, the church’s Youth & Young Adult Coordinator, said the church on Ringgold Road is getting help from the YMCA with the meals. The meals consist of a sandwich, a piece of fruit, some kind of fiber bar and a carton of milk. The program will run through August 4, the week before the start of the next school year.
On Monday, Wright said he had no idea how many young people would take advantage of the program as he and a handful of volunteers from the church set up an area in the gym to accommodate the visitors. Officials said the church handed out 1,700 flyers the last week of school to children at East Ridge Elementary and Spring Creek Schools.
“I don’t think people realize how much the city of East Ridge is changing,” Wright said. “Now there are a lot of rental houses and many people don’t come from higher-income households like it used to be.
“When a school is 100 percent free or reduced lunch, that’s a big deal,” he said.
Wright said this is the first year the church is reaching out with this kind of effort to feed hungry children. Anyone under 18 years of age, or a special needs adult 26 or younger is welcome to take advantage of the lunches. The lunches will be served from noon to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
There are only a couple of rules: The young folks need to eat in the gym. A person can’t take perishable items from the food sack home. Of course, the youngsters need to wash their hands before eating. If anything is left over there’s a table where uneaten items can be dropped off so somebody else who is hungry can help themselves.
Ashley Wade, the Director of Children’s Ministries, said she is “stoked” to be a part of the program. She said that organizers from the church had spoken to school officials in the late spring. Those officials were very concerned about where the kids who were getting free breakfasts at school would be fed.
“We’re very excited about being a part of helping the community,” Wade said.
Late Monday morning showers swept through the city. Wright said he was concerned that the rain might discourage kids from coming to take advantage of the program, as many who live nearby may be walking to the church.
Wright said that in coming weeks he may explore the possibility of utilizing one of the church’s buses to assist in bringing people to the free lunch program.
There are a couple other programs in the city for hungry children and adults, Wright said.
East Ridge Junior High School is offering free breakfast to school kids attending summer school there. East Ridge High School is offering free breakfast and lunch to anyone under 18, Monday through Thursday in its cafeteria.
In addition, East Ridge United Methodist Church on Prater Road has a community pantry. Wade said that several weeks ago, ERUM gave out more than 50 boxes of food for the less fortunate to stock their pantry with nutritious food.