Serving Afterschool Meals in Northeast Ohio

By Alexis Schneider, Northeast Community Outreach Coordinator at Children’s Hunger Alliance

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An hour ago the lunch tables pictured above were filled with thirty rambunctious, laughing middle and high school-aged boys and girls. They chatted animatedly with one another, played “flip cup” with their milk cartons and helped wipe down the tables for meal service. These children attend the Barberton Parks and Recreation afterschool program. They leave school at 2:40 p.m., arrive at the site and receive homework help as well as a chance to socialize with the other children. By 5:00 p.m. they have been served a hot, nutritious meal that some would otherwise not receive.

Travis, a bright-eyed boy of 13, is eager to help when a staff member asks who would like to be in charge of washing the tables. He makes quick work of the task and sits back down to enjoy turkey corn dogs, baked beans, a fresh banana and milk. When it is time to pack up and return home Travis grabs his coat and book bag, prepared to walk the three miles home. For children in rural communities transportation can often be the biggest hurdle to accessing food.

Mabel, an inquisitive high school freshman, began attending the site when she was in elementary school. As an adoptee from Africa, Mabel’s palette did not automatically adjust to an entirely new food experience. In fact, for her first year Mabel subsisted mainly on hot dogs. However, after much encouragement from staff members and a lot of courage on her part Mabel has expanded her palette to include a wide variety of healthy new foods.

Twenty-five year old Sarah, a staff member at the site, began attending the Barberton afterschool program when she was 13. After years of making friends and connecting with other students the program had a lasting effect on her and she appreciate the chance to return and serve this generation of children.

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How does Children’s Hunger Alliance play a role in all this? To work toward our mission of ensuring that children without access receive healthy food we provide our partners with nutritious meals and snacks at no cost. Because we provide these necessary meals, the afterschool program is able to allocate more of their limited budget toward activities and learning experiences for the kids. Having vended meals delivered directly to the rec center enables staff members to have more hands-on time with the children. There are more than 26,000 food insecure children living in Summit County where the Barberton afterschool program is located. Kids experiencing food insecurity may not know where their next meal will come from and the thirty or so attending this site are just a small representation of that fact. Children’s Hunger Alliance is dedicated to working diligently to ensure that children across the entire state of Ohio have the healthy meals they need to thrive.

You can support our partnerships with programs like the Barberton Parks and Recreation afterschool meal site by making a gift today.

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Our thanks go out to Barberton Director of Parks and Recreation Shane McAvinew and staff for allowing us a chance to check out their streamlined operation.

**Names of the children at this site have been changed for their privacy.

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