Developing Community Partnerships: The Summer Lunch Program
For many AmeriCorps members the coming fall represents the end of their “Year in Service” and the winding down of their responsibilities at various organizations across the country. The culmination of a season is often accompanied by what many people have dubbed “senioritis.” You begin to sit back, evaluate what has been accomplished, think about the future, and prepare yourself for the end. After a year of hard work as a VISTA member creating a Community Engagement Plan for my organization in Issaquah Washington, I began to feel the effects of “senioritis” settling in.
However, in the midst of preparing for the transition an exciting opportunity for community collaboration presented itself. The Issaqauh Food and Clothing Bank had been hearing a need from their clients to provide healthy snacks and food during the summer for their kids. There was a significant gap in programming to provide food for students who normally receive federally funded free or reduced lunch. The Food Bank had the food resources to be able to provide the lunches but was missing a major ingredient to make it work, volunteers. After meeting with Cori, the Director of the Food Bank, and hearing the need and potential to help families within the community I went to work mobilizing volunteers from the faith based organization I have been working with, Eastridge Church.
The Summer Lunch Program is now in its third week running with 231 registered kids. We have had a team of about 10 volunteers packing grocery bags of health snacks and lunch items on Mondays and 20 volunteers distributing them to registered families on Tuesdays. Working with the local Parks and Recreation Department we have been able to utilize a greenway across from the food bank to distribute the food and provide activities. Every Tuesday families can come and receive one grocery bag per child and kids have a blast playing soccer and Frisbee or getting creative with sidewalk chalk. Brandon a six year old who has received groceries the last three weeks said yesterday, “normally when I come with my mom to the food bank it is so boring but now I can play soccer and have lunch for the week… this is the best day ever!”
Thus far the Summer Lunch Program has been in the local paper twice and is making a significant difference for families in our community who rely on the free or reduced lunch programs at school. Cori the Food Bank Director shared her excitement about the partnership with Eastridge Church saying “the best part is that we couldn’t have done this without you and you couldn’t have done this without us.”
This has certainly been one of the most successful initiatives I have been able to develop during my service year. We are partnering with an incredible organization offering a program needed and requested by the community to help alleviate the added strain of food for the summer. With all that said the last several weeks of our AmeriCorps experiences can truly be the best and most productive. Whether you have 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months left, let’s not allow “senioritis” to blind us from potential partnerships within the community and the purpose of our year.
AmeriCorps VISTA Member
The C4 Group
Eastridge Church Care Strategy Development