TCU’s Dining Services annual summer feeding program provides meals for kids across Fort Worth and keeps some of Sodexo’s employees working during summertime.
As summer approaches, TCU prepares for its 14th annual Feeding Our Future program.
Nationwide, 21 million kids receive free or reduced priced meals during the school year, but during the summer, 2.3 million of those who qualify will have access to summer feeding programs, according to Sodexo’s Foundation website.
In Tarrant County, the food insecurity rate is 24.2 percent, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap website.
Approximately every one in five kids under the age of 18 is classified as food insecure within Tarrant county, said Ginger Cleveland, Tarrant Area Food Bank Food for Kids manager.
She said the number of kids who are food insecure increases during summer because some students will no longer have access to a school lunch program.
“That’s why summer meal programs are so important,” Cleveland said.
TCU’s Feeding Our Future program partners with Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) to find out what organizations need help feeding kids over summer, said Michael Dahl, director of operations for TCU’s Dining Services.
“In an effort to cut back on kids being hungry in our own neighborhood, we decided 13 years ago, to join the Feeding Our Future program and donate meals,” Dahl said.
Cleveland said Feeding Our Future reaches out to organizations who participate with Tarrant Area Food Bank’s Kids Cafe program, which provides after school meals and enrichment to children throughout the school year.
Sodexo donates meals to kids in Fort Worth by preparing lunches Monday through Friday for 12 weeks from the beginning of June through the end of August.
The Sodexo Foundation created the Feeding Our Future program in 1997. According to Sodexo’s Foundation website, initially the program was hosted out of three cities, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C., now, the program has reached 24 cities across the U.S. Five program center locations for this summer are located in Fort Worth.
The last 13 summers TCU’s Sodexo staff has served 300,000 meals, Dahl said. He said 15,000 to 30,000 meals are made by TCU’s staff on average each summer.
Dahl also said that through the program, he is able to keep some of TCU’s Dining Services employees working during summer.
“It’s a win, win,” Dahl said.
Dahl said he hopes to see growth in TCU’s Feeding Our Future program. He said this summer, they will prepare around 300 meals per day.
He said they have had requests to prepare anywhere from 500 to 700 meals daily during past summers.
More organizations have gotten involved in summer food service programs, such as the Texas Department of Agriculture, Cleveland said.
Cleveland said the change in demand has allowed TCU to better serve the four or five different sites it works with for a full summer.
She said she thinks that “hungry bellies” of local children impairs their learning and enjoyment of summertime.
“Anytime you put food in a child’s belly you are helping the community as a whole,” Cleveland said.
“It works really, really well for us,” said Noble Crawford, program director of Fort Worth non-profit H.O.P.E. Farm.
“In addition to saving us our budget, it provides a nutritional meal for the students,” he said.
When the kids have a balanced meal, it makes a difference in their behavior and energy level especially during the summertime when it’s so hot, Crawford said.
“For some of these kids, that balanced meal that they get here, may be the only balanced meal they have that day,” Crawford said.
He said with the Feeding Our Future program, they are able to contribute to kids health over all.
Mechell Green, program director at the Amaka Child Development Center, said Feeding Our Future is cost effective for their organization and it ensures that kids will receive a healthy meal.
Green said last summer they were able to serve the meals for lunch and have enough left over to send home with the kids for dinner which helped a lot of children who didn’t have access to meals.
She said over summer kids are home a lot more and it costs parents more to feed them,
“So it [Feeding Our Future] really did benefit the families here,” she said.