Happy Friday Grow Appalachians! We’ve most certainly had a busy week here at headquarters!

In addition to planning site visits and trying to figure out how to combat all this rain we’ve had (had even more last night), the newest thread woven into the Grow Appalachia tapestry has unraveled and made its way into the community: our Summer Feeding Program, right here in Berea, started serving meals this week! Out of six sites (yes, six!) located strategically throughout town, three began meal service on Monday the 23rd. The crowds have, admittedly, been small, but we think that’s only because not all of the county schools are out this week. That’s next week! 🙂 But the families that have turned up have been very grateful, receptive, and the kids have had fun, with plenty of smiles, all with a free meal in the process! Win-win-win! In between serving meals, our SFSP team, comprised of Berea College student labor, Berea College student interns, and AmeriCorps Members, have been out and about in neighborhoods distributing flyers and continuing to spread the word! They’ve also been busily planning and brainstorming activities for the kids.

We, with the help of the rockin’ awesome dynamic SFSP duo of Alix and Martina, began this process of bringing an SFSP site to Berea almost a year ago! I mean what I say when I say rockin’ awesome! Without them and the countless hours they’ve put in, this program would still just be an idea. This program is unique and groundbreaking in a laundry list of ways, the most noteworthy being that this Berea SFSP program is the first college or university-sponsored open, mobile program in the state! Other schools have operated closed sites, primarily during Upward Bound or other summer events, but our Grow Appalachia/Berea College site will be both preparing and distributing the meals, in multiple locations, as well as providing educational activities for the children so as to attempt to decrease the “gap” that usually occurs in between summer and school resuming in August. And since it’s an open program, anyone ages 1-18 can receive a meal at no cost! No proof of income or residency required! No cost! No kidding!

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I reached out to our SFSP team and in between gettin’ it done around Berea, they were gracious enough to share a few of their thoughts and reflections on the program so far:

-“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” -Mother Theresa
To me, the number of children showing up to our sites does not matter. What matters to me is that the children showing up are getting food to eat and aren’t going all day without food.” -Jennifer Covey, Berea College student SFSP staff

-“So far this week has been very exciting! I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program and feed kids in need. I can’t wait to see how this program flourishes!” -Alondra Barrera Garcia, Berea College student SFSP staff

-“I think that the Summer Food Service Program is a great way for both the college and Grow Appalachia to serve the community in a way that shows them that we really do care, and that we want every child in the Berea community to be full and healthy.” -Megan Davis, Berea College student SFSP staff

-“This program is definitely a double edged sword of sorts. It is a GREAT feeling knowing that you are feeding these large amounts of children every day and providing them with a filling meal/safe space to be during the day. But, it is also highlights how much of a food insecurity problem we have here in Berea. This program is taking great strides in helping combat these issues, but we do need to look deeper into the root of the problem to truly get positive results.” -Henry Marshall, Berea College student SFSP staff

-“I am so glad that I am able to be a part of this program that is helping to alleviate some of the food insecurity problems in the community. One thing that I do really like about this program is that there is no proof of income required to be able to receive a meal so any child can go in and receive one regardless of income. I hope that this will help with the idea that receiving free food is something bad. SFSP is in its first year, and I hope that we are able to have a successful year and see it continue.” -Eunice Jijon, Berea College student SFSP staff

-“I am so excited to be a part of this program. It’s really incredible to see all of the community partners that have come together to make this happen over the last year. It’s also refreshing to know that so many people are dedicated to the well-being of Berea’s children. I think it’s so important for resources to be available to pick up where parents and schools leave off so that our kids are getting the very best we can all offer. That is what this program aims to do, in both the meals and the programs and activities we are planning, and that’s what drew me in to it as soon as I heard about it. There’s nothing I’d rather be spending my time and energy on this summer, and I can’t wait to watch it grow throughout the summer and in the future!” -Katey McElrath, Berea College student SFSP staff

Check out some pictures from the week!

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The GREAT team making it happen every day, all summer!

Keep an eye out on their goings-on through their Facebook page, updated by some of the great folks pictured above, and if you live in or around Berea, PLEASE stop by one of our sites this summer: Union Church, Glades Christian Church, the Madison County Public Library Berea branch, Jefferson Memorial Park, the Berea Farmers Market (Saturdays only), and the Berea City Park. They’ll be there all summer long with free meals and fun and educational activities for your little ones! Our big kick-off event is scheduled for June 11th at the City Pool; you definitely will not want to miss that!

P.S. Aren’t those the coolest t-shirts???

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For more information about USDA Summer Food Service Programs/our SFSP program:

-USDA Summer Food Service Program Website
-Summer Food Service Program from Feeding America
-Grow Appalachia’s Summer Feeding blog page
-Summer Feeding makes the local news!