Over the summer C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. served up thousands of free lunches at area parks, schools and other public sites in Hancock and Brooke counties to ensure area children received nutritious meals when not in school.
And though the new school year will be starting soon, the agency is extending the program to after-school hours so children may receive nutritious dinners, too.
Beginning Thursday, meals will be offered to children of all ages from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Dunbar Center in Weirton; 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Brooke County Senior Center in cooperation with the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program's After School Adventures Program; and 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Brooke High School.
FREE MEALS — Emily Horvath, site coordinator for the C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. Summer Food program’s Follansbee Park site, serves up lunches to Cecilia Highfield, 4, and Tobias Highfield, 6, the children of Marie and Mark Highfield of Steubenville, on the program’s last day. Behind her are Jim Boniey, chief operating officer of community services for C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc.; Kay Wilson, kitchen supervisor for the program; and Paula Calvert, community services program manager for the agency. C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. will continue to offer free meals for all children after school at sites in Brooke and Hancock counties.
The program won't be held at any of the sites when school is closed.
Jim Boniey, chief operating officer of community services for C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc., said as with the summer program, the after-school program will be open to all children and no one will be required to present proof of income.
Prepared by staff with C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc., the meals are funded through federal dollars issued through the West Virginia Department of Education's Office of Children Nutrition and meet nutrition guidelines set for school lunches by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Judy Raveaux, executive director of the community action agency, said it has provided 54,755 meals to 5,324 children since starting the local summer food program in 2006.
"So many children depend on our school food service programs for their daily nutrition that when school ends each year, a gap occurs, and this program is vital in addressing that gap," she said.
Kay Wilson, kitchen supervisor for the summer program, said more than 7,000 meals were served at 15 locations this summer.
Some of the sites also offered breakfast. Some were in conjunction with the West Virginia University Extension Service's Energy Express summer reading program but were open to other children as well as participants of those programs.
She and Boniey expressed thanks to the various government entities and organizations that have provided sites for the lunches to be distributed and for the upcoming after-school program, as well as the many volunteers who have stepped forward.
Boniey said the agency welcomes suggestions of other sites for the after-school program. Those with suggestions or questions about the program may call him at (304) 797-7733.