Courtesy of Frankie Jones-Harris
Columbus schools had spring break last week, but what did that mean for the kids who relied on these schools to provide lunches for them?
Ohio State students from the College of Social Work, along with numerous other organizations, volunteered from April 9 – 13 at the Barnett Community Center at 1184 Barnett Rd. to provide food and entertainment for children during their break.
When school is in session, the National School Lunch Program provides students from economically disadvantaged families the opportunity to receive free or reduced-price lunches at their school, but it does not extend into their breaks.
Communication director for the College of Social Work, Frankie Jones-Harris, helped gather students from OSU to participate in this annual event. More than 40 students from the college came out to participate.
“Usually during spring break, you have kids who may not have access to lunches like they would normally get through the free and reduced lunch program,” Jones-Harris said.
This event, typically geared toward elementary school kids, allowed for kids of all-ages in the community and surrounding areas to enjoy a free lunch throughout the week and to participate in activities such as story time, crafts, basketball and salsa dancing.
“We’ve really seen and heard from students and whoever is bringing them (parents and guardians) that talk about what a positive program it is and how it does give the kids an outlet,” Jones-Harris said. “It also provides the family with relief in terms of not necessarily having to budget for an extra meal.”
Students who have busy schedules with jobs and classes still find an opportunity to get involved and make a difference. Jones-Harris commended these students, and said that it really “shows you where their hearts are.”
Alicia Parise, a fifth-year in social work, has participated in this event in the past and decided to do it again this year because of how rewarding it was for her. Volunteering is something she tries to be involved with to have a better role in the community.
“Last year, I originally signed up to volunteer one day out of the week,” Parise said. “I had so much fun that first day that I decided to go back the following three days.”
Denise Davis, a graduate student in social work, volunteered for the program for the first time, but said she wanted to partake in it for different reasons.
“I’ve had three children in the school system and I was appreciative when they were able to take advantage of free meals for schools,” Davis said. “It’s something good that they’re doing for the kids and it’s a working cause.”
Davis said overall she had a great time giving back to the community and found it was a great way to spend her Friday outside of school.
There were about 70 kids who showed up every day. Jonathan Evener, a fourth-year in social work, was also at the event every day participating in anything that he could.
He worked on setting the event up and working throughout the day with handing out food and playing with the kids during the activities.
The Christ United Methodist Church at 1480 Zettler Rd. assisted in the organization of this event. Tammy Hinkle-Moore, a member of this church, has worked on this event for the past three years and has seen it improve since its beginning.
“This year we’re offering more fresh fruits and vegetables, as far as the diet, and we’re offering milk and water,” Hinkle-Moore said.
Jones-Harris said the event was all about helping others.
“It just strikes you that there are kids and families out there who are struggling and don’t have the resources to perhaps provide three meals a day that many of us are used to,” Jones-Harris said. “This event allows that to happen. It plugs a hole that may be existing in some kids and families’ lives.”