Nancy Woods, Brittany Campbell and a crew of volunteers from Open Hearts United Methodist Church were all smiles Monday as they kicked off this summer’s feeding program at Cribbs Family Youth Park.
Woods, Bolivar Intermediate School’s head cook, is a six-year veteran of the program and the current site manager.
She seemed happy to recognize most of the young faces that came inside the small, air-conditioned former bathhouse to eat free cheese sticks, salad, applesauce, Rice Krispy treats and milk.
Her familiarity with the children stemmed not only from her role in BIS’ lunchroom, but from the summer lunch program’s presence at Cribbs Family Youth Park — a location that seems to have helped the program reach the most bellies possible.
“This is where it hits the spot,” she said. “I can tell just by the numbers today that the kids remember we’re down here. And that means there will be less hungry kids.”
Additionally, the July 8 kickoff marked Brittany Campbell’s first day in the program’s lunchroom.
Although this was Campbell’s first day behind the program’s food-line, she had worked ahead of time to help plan for volunteers and locational logistics.
“They make sure the food is ready, and I get the volunteers,” Campbell said, summing up her role.
Woods said Campbell has “been a breath of fresh air.”
Needless to say, their dedication to the program’s success will also give a breath of fresh air to kids who don’t have access to food at home.
Woods said that some people in Polk County may not realize “there are kids who aren’t being fed.”
“There are kids who aren’t the priority in families,” she added.
“When these people come in, I’m amazed that they even come in,” Campbell said. “These kids that don’t have their friends or their parents — they’re coming in by themselves to get food. It just makes my heart happy that they’re brave enough to come in here and do it.”
They wanted to make it clear that none of this could be possible without the community.
“The volunteers help make this happen just as much as us,” Campbell said.
“I’m thankful that I’m working for the school system, and I’m thankful the Polk County Health Department’s come on board to help provide healthy nutritious meals just for the Polk County children,” Woods said.
About the lunch program
In 2015, then-11-year-old Bolivar student Jianna Halbrook came up with the idea to help feed her classmates. Halbrook worked with representatives from Community Outreach Ministries, the Bolivar R-1 School District, Care to Learn and the Polk County Health Center to get the summer food program up and running.
The lunch program is funded through a grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The Bolivar R-1 School District, Polk County Health Center, local churches and several organizations currently partner to offer it.
The program runs through July 26. Meals are free for children 0-18 and $1 for adults. Meals are served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.