COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Nancy Bradshaw watches closely as her staff pack up hundreds of meals inside the kitchen of Francis Burns United Methodist Church.
“We started off by providing 60 meals for the children,” Bradshaw, the Director for the Summer Food Service Program at the church, said.
For the last 13 years, the church has been a sponsor for the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program here in South Carolina.
They deliver 1,200 meals every weekday to 35 different sites in the area.
“Sometimes it’s kind of overwhelming to think about the impact we’re having on the greater Columbia community,” Bradshaw said.
All of this, to stop child hunger in the state.
According to Feeding America, one in five children in South Carolina struggle with hunger. About 200,000 children have no idea where their next meal is coming from. That’s especially the case when school lets out for the summer. The breakfast and lunch they ate during the school year aren’t available.
In South Carolina, the federal program is overseen by the state’s Department of Education. They said there are dozens of sponsors like Francis Burns United Methodist Church and 1,700 sites across the state where food is served. Children and teens under the age of 18 can receive a free meal.
Joann Minder, Team Leader for the Summer Food Service Program at the Department of Education, said making sure there are enough accessible sites in rural areas of the state has been a challenge.
“We’re trying to increase the number of neighborhood sites like a park, a library or housing community. So kids can just walk to them,” she added.
Last year, a little over 4 million meals were served. Ron Jones is the Director of the Office of Health and Nutrition at the Department of Education. He said these meals mean a lot to the children that receive them.
“It gives them a sense of comfort and eliminates that fear of not knowing where that new meal will come from,” he said.
Staff at Francis Burns United Methodist Church said, as long as kids are hungry, they’ll be ready.
Minder and Jones said they hope more sponsors and sites can be involved next year so no child goes hungry in South Carolina.
If you’d like to find a meal site near you click here.
If you’d like to get involved with the Summer Meals Service Program click here.