CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- A push to expand the summer meals program for school kids in the metro Cedar Rapids area got off to a fast start on Monday. And enough volunteers answered the call to open every single site planned by United Way of East Central Iowa.
Approximately 13,000 children in Linn County qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school. But that nutrition program ends when summer break begins. So the Summer Meals push this year in the Cedar Rapids area needed 50 volunteers to coordinate each lunch site until the program ends August 22nd.
Dave Loy, program coordinator for United Way, said last year different groups operated a total of 13 meal sites in various locations around Cedar Rapids or nearby cities. With the expansion push, and enough volunteers, that number in 2014 will be 24.
The kickoff for the program took place at Ellis Park and kids and parents who came found therapy dogs to pet and clowns to watch. Former Green Bay Packer, and Hawkeye football player, Aaron Kampman mingled with the kids and poses for pictures. But organizers hope all the “extras” aren’t what keeps kids coming back the rest of the summer. They hope it’s the promise of a free, nutritious meal for all.
One mother at the kickoff, Hollie Abbott, said the meal site expansion should be good news for many kids and parents.
“There’s so many low income families out there and with school they didn’t have to worry about lunch every day. They were worried about the summer and what would happen and now they don’t have to worry about that,” Abbott said.
Loy said there was some doubt at first about getting enough volunteers to open every meal site. But eventually enough people, and companies, volunteered to serve the meals and all 24 locations opened on time. Loy said Horizons prepared about 1,000 meals for Monday. But he hoped as more families become aware of the opportunities, the number will grow.
“We looked at how we ended last year and that was 800 meals in a day. We’re starting at a thousand and the hope is we’ll grow that over the summer and by the end of the summer my hope is to double what we did last year,” Loy said.
The meal site locations and serving times in Cedar Rapids, and surrounding communities, are:
Kenwood Elementary, 3700 E. Ave. NE (11:15)
Daniels Park 940 Oakland Rd NE (11:00)
Five Seasons Mobile Home Park 3421 Blairs Ferry Rd NE (12:00)
Boys & Girls Club-Polk Elementary 1500 B Ave. NE (12:00)
Ellis Park, 916 Ellis Blvd NW (12:15)
Boys & Girls Club-Hoover Elementary 4141 Johnson Ave NW (12:00)
Boys & Girls Club-Olivet 230 10th Street NW (12:00)
Jacolyn Park Jacolyn & Gordon NW (11:30)
Paul Engle Center 1600 4th Ave SE (12:15)
Oak Hill Jackson Resource Center 1230 Fifth St SE (12:00)
Boys & Girls Club South Unit 361 17th St. SE (12:00)
Bever Park 2700 Bever Ave SE (11:00)
Westdale Court Apartments 2155 Westdale Dr SW (11:30)
Cedar Terrace Mobile Home Park 1834 Gretchen Dr SW (11:30)
Hawthorne Hills Apartments 2263 C St SW (12:00)
Cedar Valley Townhomes 3000 J St. SW (12:00)
Jones Park Wilson and Fruitland SW (12:15)
LADD Library 3750 Williams Blvd SW (11:45)
Boys & Girls Club-Taylor Elementary 720 Seventh Ave SW (12:00)
The Sanctuary (Lincoln Elem) 912 18th Ave SW (12:00)
Nixon Elementary Hiawatha 200 Nixon Dr. (11:30)
Marion Public Library 1095 6th Ave (11:45)
Mount Vernon Colonial Estates Highway 1 & Ink (12:00)
Springville Community Center 265 Broadway (11:00)
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