Making sure no child goes hungry this summer is a tall order, but Worthington City Schools and the Worthington Resource Pantry soon will begin offering free meals for children.
Becky Dunn, food-services director for Worthington City Schools, said the school district operates two summer-meal locations for children and anyone over 18 who is determined to be mentally or physically disabled by a state or local educational agency.
The program began in 2013.
"We think kids need to be fed in the summer," Dunn said. "Many of these kids would not get fed a nutritious breakfast or lunch if we didn't provide these meals.
"For our reading-intervention kids, (who) come from all over the community, it also is a nice way to end their morning -- to give them a hot meal before they go home."
The program runs June 5 to June 30; the school year ends May 24.
Breakfast will be served from 10 to 10:30 a.m. each weekday at Worthington Estates Elementary School, 6760 Rieber St., followed by lunch from 11:20 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. or 12:15 to 12:35 p.m.
The first 25 community children that are 18 and under who are not enrolled in the summer-school program will be served during any of those hours on a "first-come, first-served" basis, Dunn said.
She said children not enrolled in summer school would be asked to sign in, but will not be asked for any documents or proof of address.
The second meal site at Phoenix Middle School is open to all children, enrolled in summer school or not, with no restrictions on the number of children served. Breakfast only will be served from 9:45 to 10:15 a.m. at the school, 2341 Snouffer Road.
"Children can just show up and eat," Dunn said.
She said 27 percent of Worthington City Schools students currently qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.
Last year, the district provided breakfast to 339 children and made a total of 4,240 lunches, including students enrolled in summer school and children from the community, Dunn said.
"Our food-service employees will be making the hot lunches," she said.
Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the summer-meal program is organized through the Ohio Department of Education. Adults may not eat off a child's plate and all meals must be eaten on site.
"The children could take home a piece of fruit or crackers, but we don't want them taking home something perishable that could sit outside for a few hours before they eat it," Dunn said.
She said the food-service employees collect unopened milk and other opened items to donate to the Worthington Resource Pantry.
Nick Linkenhoker, volunteer director for the Worthington Resource Pantry, said the pantry is working with Serving Our Neighbors Ministries to sponsor two summer-meal sites from June 5 through July 27.
Both sites will serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays at Worthington Run Townhomes and Karl Village Apartments.
The Worthington Run meals will be outside by the courtyard on Queensbridge Drive, Linkenhoker said. The main address for the complex is 1800 Worthington Run Drive.
The Karl Village Apartments complex is at 1541 Barnes Drive.
"We welcome any children at all to these lunches," Linkenhoker said. "Any child from the community can come and eat both hot and cold meals, and they don't need to bring identification or proof of address."
He said the program is "a first" for the food pantry.
"SON Ministries has done it for a number of years and the number of meals served depended on the weather and how comfortable parents were with letting their kids come through," he said. "We are hoping to get a good turnout. These neighborhoods have a lot of kids getting free and reduced-price lunches in Worthington schools.
"Hopefully, the lunch program will help parents bridge the gap a little bit."
The food pantry plans to contract with a catering company for the meals.
"Last year, we did a weekly bag program in the same area and delivered enough food for 60 to 70 children," Linkenhoker said.
"It was a great program, but it took a lot of effort to identify which students needed the most help. This program is not dependent on someone being home to pick up the bag of food."
He said anyone interested in volunteering should call 614-985-1766 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"This is a great opportunity for us to get food to children who need it," Linkenhoker said. "Part of our mission is to provide healthy nutrition options for our neighbors, so this is one way we can do that."
He said the food pantry also needs donated items, such as canned goods and personal-care items. Donations may be dropped off from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays; and from 9 a.m. to noon Fridays and Saturdays.