Mission begins to ensure 7,000 area children are fed during the summer months away from school.

One of last year’s feeding locations. (from YMCA)

By Natalie Simms

With a goal of providing 100,000 free meals to the estimated 7,000 children in Floyd County living below the poverty line, the YMCA of Rome-Floyd County, Floyd County Schools and Rome City Schools are ready for a big Summer Feeding Program this year. City and county sites open Tuesday and the YMCA will launch its “Food and Fun” programs next Monday, June 4.

“For so many children in our community, once school is out, they often times for whatever reason, don’t get the nutritious meals they need,” says Stephanie McElhone, director of Community Outreach for YMCA. “Our goal is to try to bring two hours of joy to these children every week day this summer. It’s important for the kids to have a good time so that they come back for the nutritious meals they need.”

The program provides a free meal including breakfast and/or lunch at certain locations for any child ages 18 and younger throughout the summer funded through federal grants from USDA. Registration is not required and all sites are open to any child. Rome City Schools will run feeding sites at 15 sites, including schools and community locations now through June 29 (some sites have different dates). You can find a list of locations, dates and times here: RCS Feeding Sites.

Floyd County Schools begins its program today through July 26 at dozens of different locations in the county. You can find a list of locations, dates and times here: FCS Feeding Sites.

Parents also can download an app to help them find the closest feeding site to them. Click here for details.

“We had a lot of success last year with the app to help parents find the site,” says Donna Carver, Child Nutrition director with Floyd Schools. “We will have dozens of sites throughout the summer that will be open for different dates. We generally serve between 2,000 and 3,000 meals per day each summer. We do serve at least 3 hot meals a week, popular foods that kids like such as hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches. The other two days are sandwiches with appropriate sides.”

This is the 24th year Rome City Schools has been offering the summer feeding program. They plan to serve about 1,600 meals day for the one-month program.

“We will serve food at our elementary schools, middle and high school, as well as working with some local churches. Working with other organizations helps us reach the kids who wouldn’t be able to come otherwise because not all kids are within walking distance of the schools,” says Brandy Money, School Nutrition director for Rome.

The school systems partner with dozens of organizations in the community, including the YMCA, to make this program a success.

“This mammoth undertaking could not be accomplished without the partnership of wonderful groups and churches in our community that come together each year for the benefit of our children,” says Carver. “Some of our longstanding partners include the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, the Recreation Department, the Housing Authority, Action Ministries, the Community Kitchen, West Rome Baptist Church, along with many, many other churches.  We could never reach all the children that we are able to impact without the community partners.

“It is a wonderful part of our program to be able to reach outside of the school walls and bring nutritious meals to children over the summer.  I feel fortunate that our school board supports us and the children of Floyd County and to allows this program to continue each year.”

In partnership with the schools, the YMCA will host the “Food and Fun” outreach programs at five different locations this summer including the Tamassee Apartments in West Rome, Alto Park School playground, Gilbreath Center in Lindale, Green & Gold NWGAHA (Green and Gold Boulevard) and Restoration Rome/Fielder Center (former Southeast Elementary).

“At each outreach location, we will be providing lunch and two-hours of activities on Monday through Friday, all summer long,” says McElhone. “We are grateful to our local and national partners such as Walmart, Tyson Foods, International Paper and others who help make this possible.”

While the food is provided with USDA grants, the YMCA spends some $30,000 on the outreach activities and staff for the program. The YMCA funds the program through corporate grants and individual donations.

“Our program is all about serving kids within walking distance of their home. We want them to come make new friends, enjoy some high energy and ridiculously fun games and get good meal,” she says. “Many people think of the YMCA as a gym and swim place, but our mission is focused on youth development for healthy living and social responsibility. This (summer feeding) program is really our summer outreach.”

The YMCA does have some paid staff to run the activities at each site this summer, but needs additional volunteers to help serve the food. To help, please contact McElhone at 706-232-2468 or email: smcelhone@ymcarome.org.

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