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CHCCS lauded for summer meals program

CHAPEL HILL Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools is being recognized for its ability to deliver high quality summer meals to local children.

The CHHCS-sponsored “Food for the Summer” program was awarded a “Gold Turnip the Beet” award by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its efforts in 2016.

The program, which covered 16 neighborhoods, utilized more than 650 volunteers to provide roughly 48,000 lunches and 3,500 books to children last summer to address a “widening summer meal gap.”

With summer beginning for 2017, “Food for the Summer” now provides local, well-balanced food and books to 19 neighborhoods with the support of Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger.

Though some volunteer opportunities prohibit children from working without the use of a car, Shannon Tennyson says having the ability to work with her son, Carter, makes the experience more impactful.

“It’s a great opportunity for families to volunteer together in a way that’s comfortable for the kids,” she said.

Tennyson set up “Free Book Wednesday” at the Dobbins Hill Apartments in Chapel Hill Wednesday, welcoming a crowd of 10 kids accompanied by two mothers. The number of children who attend, she says, varies day-to-day with Dobbins Hill expecting eight to 10.

Wednesday’s meal offered a cheeseburger, baked beans and orange slices with an array of books spread out on the grass.

After each meal, the children are supplied with a “Fun Bucket” with various toys and sporting equipment. Wednesday’s bucket had two jump ropes and a Frisbee, both Shannon and Carter jumping along with a young boy.

“It really feels like you’re giving a significant, immediate impact,” she added.

Tennyson joined the program last summer after receiving an email from school communications, and continues to volunteer each day with her son.

“It gives he and I time,” she said.

Following a short clean-up, volunteers are offered an opporunity to reflect on their experience in a white binder. The reflections and feedback help the program promote itself and improve, she said.

“Food for the Summer” has partnered with faith groups and local food aid organizations such as PORCH and TABLE to widen the range of distribution, its website says.

Two other North Carolina programs were awarded “Turnip the Beet” recognition with Buncombe County Schools receiving gold. Silver and bronze were awarded to the YMCA of Western North Carolina and Rockingham County Schools, respectively.

The award is based on the serving of local foods; serving a variety of vegetables and fruits; serving whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy products and serving culturally appropriate meals. Excellence is demonstrated through incorporating taste test feedback from the children and offering nutrition education.