Summer breakfast program wrapping up successful first year
In June, Whitehall Area Hunger Initiative offered the first-ever summer breakfast program for school-age children in Whitehall and Coplay. This is a free outreach program and was designed to alleviate childhood hunger over the summer — and, yes, we do have hunger issues here in Whitehall and Coplay.
We are very concerned about and supportive of our community’s youth with food security and reading. If a child does not read over the summer, their reading skills diminish when they go back to school. If they don’t read two summers in a row, they are three years behind in reading when they go back in the fall.
The hunger initiative researched and planned this summer breakfast program for more than a year. We are so thankful that St. John’s Lutheran Church, 835 Third St., Fullerton, stepped up to provide a location for the kids to attend. Thank you!
The program has run 8:30-10 a.m. Monday through Friday since June 19 and will end Aug. 25. The students, ages 4-18, receive either a hot or a cold breakfast, do activities and crafts, exercise and read daily. They also are given a bagged lunch to take home and are given food on Fridays for the weekend. We have provided 1,310 meals from June 19 to Aug. 11. These kids and their families are most grateful for this food.
Our breakfast program has been co-chaired by Lana Snyder, Janice Stavrou and Leah Saliby. Many volunteers and committee members have made this a huge success. We want to help more kids in our school district and are hoping to have two more locations next year — one in Coplay and one in Egypt or Cementon.
Thank you to everyone in the community who has come together with providing food, time, talent, moral support, cash donations or personal items for the kids to take home, plus so much more. The kids feel that people do care about them. With all the outpouring of help and support, this not only benefits the kids, but it also benefits our community as a whole. This has been a very rewarding and uplifting project.
I have asked the co-chairs to give me some comments from their perspective on the work we have done.
Lana Snyder: “Some highlights from the summer breakfast program include the many juvenile probation officers who took their time to come and read to our children. These children read every day either to themselves, each other or have someone read to them. I cannot thank enough the residents, businesses, churches and organizations who have given donations of food, backpacks, hygiene kits, toys and books. The outreach has been overwhelming, and the children are very appreciative. We also had many volunteers who gave their time during the day to help anywhere they were needed.”
Janice Stavrou: “One of the great benefits of the summer breakfast program is the relationships that have formed. In the beginning, the kids knew no one, and now they have a whole new circle of friends. It has been wonderful to see kids and volunteers having fun while learning and playing.”
Leah Saliby: “What I love about this program as it evolved was seeing how the children started taking ownership of it. The older kids would help in the kitchen, unload boxes of food or assist younger kids with their breakfast. Parents also took ownership by attaining their clearances and officially becoming volunteers helping to prepare breakfast or pack lunches. Everyone — volunteers, kids, parents and community organizations — is invested in the program and helps to make it the success it is.”