Summer Food Program offered in Urbancrest

By Dedra Cordle

Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
The village of Urbancrest is currently hosting a federal and state program that provides free breakfast and lunch to children ages 1 to 18. Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and supervised by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, the Summer Food Service Program will run through Aug. 20 at Martin Luther King Park, located at 3492 First Ave. Operating Monday through Sunday, breakfast will be served from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Shown here having a friendly chat with area residents (left to right) Chase Baker, Thomas McClung, and Lincoln Baker as they eat their lunch on June 18 is Urbancrest Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. He said it was important that the village become involved with this program to ease parent’s concerns over feeding their children during the summer break from school. “We don’t want any kid to go hungry,” he stated.

When Becky Baker’s children come home on the last day of school, she cannot help getting caught up in their excitement for the summer break.

“Their happiness is infectious,” she said with a grin.

But when the shared feeling of euphoria subsides, a growing unease comes to the forefront of her mind.

When her children are in school, Baker takes comfort in the knowledge that they are receiving two healthy and nutritious meals each day. She does not always have that luxury when they are on break for 11 weeks.

Like so many individuals across the country, Baker’s finances have taken a hit with the lingering inflation, and the rising cost of groceries and utilities.

“Everything is so expensive now,” said the resident of Grove City. “Sometimes, you’re waiting for that next paycheck and money gets really tight. When you’re in that situation, you can’t always provide all of the things you want to provide.”

When Baker starts to feel that pinch, when she believes she cannot stretch a dollar any further, she finds a local summer food service program so her children can get those pre-dinner meals.

Sometimes she has to travel further than she would like to get to their location. In the past few years, she has traveled to the east side, the far east side, the north side, and the west side to access lunch meals for her children. The frequent travel has lightened her pocketbook and she is acutely aware that the odometer on her vehicle is always ticking upward.

This year, however, she learned that there was a summer food service program operating in the village of Urbancrest. She said she could not have been more grateful to have found this location.

“It’s a pretty quick drive and there’s a lot to do afterward,” she said, referring to her children who were playing on the playground after they had their meal.

The summer food service program that is operating in the village of Urbancrest is a part of a wider network to feed children over the summer break. Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and supervised by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, the program provides children ages 1 to 18 with a free breakfast meal and lunch meal every day of the week.

Asha Abdulle, a volunteer with program sponsor Somali Education and Resource Center, said she encourages everyone who is feeling a little financially insecure to come out and share a meal.

“I love being a part of this program because it helps put food in the bellies of children,” said Abdulle, a resident of the village. “I have known hunger and I have known many people who have known hunger. I believe everyone should have good meals and have the comfort of knowing that food is available.”

The summer food service program is operating at the shelter house in Martin Luther King Park, adjacent to the village administrative building located at 3492 First Ave. Breakfast meals are served from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Lunch meals are served from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

The summer food service program will operate in the village until Aug. 20. To see additional locations of the summer food service program, visit the ODEW website at https://education.ohio.gov/topics/student-supports/food-and-nutrition/summer-food-service-program.

The village of Urbancrest has also opened the Vaughn E. Hairston Southwest Community Center from 12 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday for children and young adults. Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. said they are welcome to make crafts in the art room, play games in the game room, and play sports in the gymnasium. The village is also looking for a lifeguard to oversee the aquatics center so the children can swim in the pool.

Barnes said when the village reopened the community center three years ago, they did not intend for it to be just a place of recreation.

“We wanted to put the ‘community’ in the community center,” he said. “We want this place to be a beacon for the community, for them to be able to come together in mind, body, and spirit. Having this recreation center here and having this summer food service program running concurrently in the summer helps us fulfill that mission.”

The village has hosted a summer food service program for the last two years. Barnes said they intend to host the program for many years to come.

“We want it to be a mainstay in the community.”

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