More than 1 in 5 Lane County children (22%) don’t have access to adequate nutrition, and more than half (53%) qualify for free school meals during the school year. But when school is out, families with children need help filling that meal gap.
FFLC’s Summer Food Program helps. We operate one of the largest free summer meals programs in Oregon, providing 82,000 meals to children ages 2 to 18 at 54 sites throughout Lane County.
Jennifer sees the challenges kids and families face getting enough to eat every day. During the summer, she and her staff prepare and serve 300 free breakfasts and lunches for children and teens at eight FFLC Summer Food Program sites in the Cottage Grove area.
“The little guys are not shy about telling you what’s going on at home, good and bad,” said Jennifer. “They’ll say something like ‘I really like it when you come here because on the weekends we don’t really have much to eat other than maybe something for breakfast.’ The little ones are very honest, I think maybe because they think everyone lives that way.”
She remembers one young father who brought his daughter to Jennifer’s summer meal site. She thought he might be struggling financially, so she gave him a phone number that he could call for information about getting a food box.
“I think a lot of people are too embarrassed to ask for help,” said Jennifer. “To say ‘I can’t provide for my family. I can’t provide for myself.’ Nobody wants to admit that.”
For Jennifer, the job comes with its share of heart-wrenching moments and happy ones “when the kids are excited to see you and they’re ready for you to serve them lunch and they want to help and you listen to whatever joke or story or tale they have to tell.”
“I believe in FFLC’s mission and what they’re trying to do,” she said. “It’s an awesome thing to be a part of. At the end of the day I get a really good feeling like I’m making a difference. I believe in FFLC’s Summer Food Program because without it a lot of kids wouldn’t have much to eat at all throughout the summer. That says a lot about how vital this program is.”
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