NEWBERRY COUNTY — End Child Hunger SC and its partners are coming together this year to host the first Summer Food Service Program tour for the Midlands.
The tours allow members of the community, representatives from End Child Hunger SC and its partners to visit site locations for the Summer Food Service Program where they get to see the program at work and get to meet some of the kids who benefit from the program.
“The tours have been going great so far. Yesterday we were up in Prosperity and that is actually a first time site this year, and we are really excited. Prosperity is an area where they have been wanting a Summer Food Service Program and six churches of different backgrounds came together to put it on, and the kids are loving it,” said Ashley Page with End Child Hunger SC.”
Newberry County has 12 Summer Food Service Program sites. This week, six of them will host visitors.
“It is the middle of summer and with Summer Food Service Program about one in five participated last summer here. We wanted to boost those rates. Often times after the Fourth of July numbers decrease,” Page said. “We want to make sure families still know the program was going on and present it in a fun way, and get community support and actually be able to see some of these sites.”
Page added the visits have been beneficial for everyone involved because many of the tour visitors have never been to a site.
Nance Forest Apartments, a first year Food Service Program site, was the site of a tour on Tuesday.
This site has been able to provide 45 to 50 youths a nutritious meal over the summer, according to Rhonda Akerman, site property manager.
Youth from the Nance Forest Apartments site as well as the Wise Street Park site held a parade Tuesday to show visitors what they have done over the summer. The parade showed off artwork that the youths completed over the summer, as well as posters that showed their summer activities.
DaShawn DeCou, a senior program specialist in Food and Nutrition Services with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was one of the site’s visitors on Tuesday.
“On behalf of the USDA, we actually want to support our state, and their sites. We work with seven other states, and we love the creativity each state brings to supporting and promoting the Summer Food Service Program,” DeCou said. “The tour is something very unique that they are doing in South Carolina.”
Joan Minder, program assistant with the Summer Food Program for the State Department of Education, has made a number of site visits during this tour. She said one thing she has learned is that children are very appreciative of the meals.
“Overall I’ve seen how important the program is for children who do not get access to meals during the summer time because school is out,” Minder said. “The program fills in the gap during the summer.”
One key feature of the Summer Food Service Program is that it ensures kids have a healthy meal, even when school is out.
“We have learned during the school year you have a lot of students participate in free lunch program. However, during the summer they do not have the same access to meals. The Summer Food Service is actually a bridge during the summer,” DeCou said.
“Learning takes place during the summer, and if you do not have the type of nutrition that you need during the summer, how would you be able to perform during the school year? It is very important these kids have access to nutritious healthy meals during the summer,” DeCou said.
Page said a number of people have requested that the tours become an annual event for the Summer Food Service Program.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.