CUOC launches program to keep kids fed over summer
Beginning next Monday, the Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County will provide free meals to children in need throughout August.
The Summer Food Service Program is a federal initiative focused on providing children who rely on the Feeding America BackPack Program or free or reduced lunches during the school year with an affordable meal option during the summer months, when other programs are unavailable.
According to Executive Director Teresa Kelly, CUOC will send mobile units to Jonesboro United Methodist Church and First Cavalry Missionary Baptist Church on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons from Aug. 4-22.
"We didn't want to jump into water over our heads," Kelly said. "The maximum you can do is five days a week starting with the end of the school year and ending with the beginning of the new school year. The minimum was nine days. We wanted to start small and see how it went."
According to Kelly, the Summer Food Service Program, run through the North Carolina food bank system and local organizations, operated at 15 sites in 2009 and served 574 children. She said there are 105 sites this year serving more than 4,100 children with upwards of 137,000 meals across the 42 counties served by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
"As time goes on," Kelly said, "the dream would be that every kid in Lee County would be within a reasonable distance from a meal."
CUOC, which is partnered with 65 churches and 110 businesses in the area, settled on Jonesboro Methodist and First Cavalry as distribution sites in an effort to reach as many children in need as possible.
"Where we are in Sanford, it seems like a good area where there are a lot of kids," said Amie Stewart, director of Christian Formation at Jonesboro United. "We thought this might be a good opportunity to reach out and help. We realize there are a lot of kids who don't get food over the summer. We wanted to see what we could do about it as a church and as a part of this community."
Stewart said starting small was the way to go, and that she hoped the program would expand as time went on to cover more and more of Sanford and Lee County. The church's daycare will be taking advantage of the program, and Stewart expects to feed up to 75 children on Monday.
The Rev. Thomas Smith of First Cavalry said he was excited by the opportunity to provide what he considers a much-needed service to the area.
"In this community," he said, "there are a number of underprivileged children that live within a half-mile or so radius of us. We thought it would be something where we could lend a hand to help supply something that would be needed for young people."
Kelly stressed that meals were strictly for children due to federal guidelines required for participation in the program, and that, besides a meal, children also would have access to activities and entertainment to help engage them with volunteers at each site.
Meals will be served at Jonesboro United from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and at First Cavalry from 12:15-1:15 p.m.
For directions to the sites or other questions involving when and where to get meals, call Amie Stewart at (919) 775-7023 or the Rev. Thomas Smith at (919) 775-2912.
Meals will be served to Lee County children at First Cavalry Missionary Baptist Church and Jonesboro United Methodist Church on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Aug. 4-22
240 Fields Drive, Sanford
12:15 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.
407 W. Main St., Sanford
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Jonesboro United needs volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the Summer Food Service Program there can contact Amie Stewart at (919) 775-7023