Joplin Schools Summer Food Program Underutilized: New Text App H - KOAM TV 7

Joplin Schools Summer Food Program Underutilized: New Text App Helps Locate Feeding Sites

Joplin, MO -

The state of Missouri has an app now to make it easy for any family to find a summer feeding site to access two free meals a day this summer.
           But officials say the program in Joplin schools providing free food to any child under age eighteen is underutilized.

 "Want applesauce baby?" asks a cafeteria staffer of a young girl. She
s among kids who lined up for breakfast from the Joplin school districts summer food program Tuesday.  About one hundred and twenty-five kids  from the YMCAs summer program take part daily.
Among them is Anna Moore's daughter.

She appreciates the program and said,  "It
s nice. Its economical. Just helps us, otherwise I'd have to pay for the lunch, the snack and the breakfast, and everything like that. So, it does help."

The YMCA provides scholarships to some families.  More than thirty  percent apply.

YMCA childcare coordinator, Tish Persinger said,
We serve a wide variety of different background demographics. We do have a lot of kids who need this extra meal or need these meals during the summer where they used to be supplemented through the schools during the school year." 

And this year the state department of health and senior services created an app to help  families find feeding sites. Just text the word food to 877877 and you are prompted to enter your zip code.

Joplin Schools food services director Rick Kenkel said,  "This is  an initiative to keep our kids well fed so that way they're ready to learn when they come back to school."

At the beginning of summer, during summer school, there were multiple feeding sites but in July it all shifts to West Central Elementary. Kenkel says that could change if there was more walk up demand.

He said,
If we saw a huge population  starting to walk in off the street,  we would probably look at opening another site. Kenkel doesnt understand why the program is underused.

          Recent Kids Count statistics for  Jasper county  do show three point three percent  fewer families living at one hundred eighty-five percent of the poverty level, a decline in kids in poverty overall, and  a nearly four percent drop in those facing food insecurity.
But the folks at Children
s Haven say they're seeing an increase in those homeless and hungry.
Executive director Stephanie Theis said,
Half of our bed space is from families who are homeless. We have twenty kids, ten of those are from families struggling with housing issues."

All working for kids wish more families would take advantage of the free food. Kenkel said, 
We do a lot  of things to try to help the community. This is one that is the diamond in the rough. Most people dont  know its there.
Kenkel says another positive of the program is that it keeps cafeteria staff members employed over the summer.  It's funded by the USDA through the state
s department of health and senior services.


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