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Free Summer Food For Kids Kicks Off In June 9

Sonora, CA — It’s a go. Efforts in the works for the past several weeks aiming to provide Tuolumne County kids free summer lunches and snacks during the summer recess has received all the official okays for a timely start up next week.

Beginning Tuesday, June 9, through the county’s new Summer Food Service Program for Children, USDA-approved lunches and afternoon snacks will be provided free of charge to kids over the next ten weeks. The meals will be served Tuesdays through Saturdays at the library on Greenley Road and at the youth rec centers in Tuolumne, Jamestown and Groveland. Lunch time will run from noon until 1 p.m.; snack time, from 3 to 3:30 p.m. No pre-registration or sign ups are needed; the only caveat is that the kids must remain on-site while eating the provided foods.

The effort, spearheaded by the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA), was literally a dream-come-true for ATCAA Food Bank Director Lee Kimball, who was interviewed by Clarke Broadcasting back in March about local hunger.

At the time, Kimball had shared that the agency was seeing local needs shift to childhood hunger and that their greatest concern was to be able to make provisions for those who do without much in the way of food when school is out. Kimball states that the resulting outpour of local volunteer response to her published comments and the organization’s strong existing ties within the community allowed ATCAA and volunteer program developer/coordinator Joseph Bors to ambitiously work with state and local agencies in order to bring the new program together in just ten weeks.

Free Food And Summer Fun

According to Bors, the pilot program, administered through the state Department of Education, leverages available federal grant money through the USDA to provide non-discriminatory food service to county children that combines food and healthy activities over the summer. While meals will be served on a first come, first served basis, the meal quantities at each site will be adjusted daily, based on prior-day attendance numbers. This, he says, will allow program organizers and Reich’s Outpost of Jamestown, the food service supplier, to meet whatever demands each location might incur over the summer.

“We’re really excited to have this opportunity, and grateful to the radio station [Clarke Broadcasting] for helping us find a volunteer to put [the program] together for Tuolumne County — 46 percent of our children, according to the California Department of Education — here in our county — rely on free lunches or reduced price lunches,” Kimball states. She adds, “So, those kids, really and truly, have no access to the foods they need. We are very, very excited to pilot a program, to try to start reaching those kids in the summer months, and to partner with our Rec Department and our library, so it’s not just great food and healthy food, but healthy summer activities for the kids, too.”

Kimball says that, because addressing local hunger needs presents a real challenge for rural agencies and areas, having the program template that successfully navigates all the federal and state requirements will be a boon for further efforts next summer to expand, involve additional locations, cover more ground — and feed even more hungry kids. For more details about the program call 533-1397.