HIGHLAND — When the world seems to be falling apart, and people question if people care for one another, a group of volunteers teamed up during the summer to feed children who may have been missing meals; because when schools are not in session, kids miss meals.
Nearly one-third of students in the Highland School District qualify for free or reduced lunches.
While there are pro-grams in place to assist those faced with food insecurity, organizers felt they could offer an additional resource to fill in the gaps. The only two qualifications required to receive a free lunch was to be 18 years of age or younger and show up at the delivery sites during the delivery times. There were “no names, no forms, no questions, no judgment,” said Missi Loyet, an organizer of Loving United Neighbors Crushing Hunger (L.U.N.C.H.).
Among those making the program possible were more than 200 neighbors from churches, civic organizations as well as volunteers in the rural communities within the Highland CUSD #5.
Six churches in Highland took charge of preparing and delivering lunches one day each week over the 10-week period. They included Evangelical United Church of Christ on Mondays; Highland Hope, Tuesdays; St. Paul Catholic Church, Wednesdays; Mosaic Church, Thursdays and First Congregational Church and Highland Community Church joined together to serve on Fridays. All lunches were prepared by food handler certified volunteers in a licensed kitchen.
Two vehicles, tagged with L.U.N.C.H. Bunch magnetic signs, each with two delivery volunteers wearing the L.U.N.C.H. Bunch lime green T-shirts would set out to deliver lunches to St. Joseph’s Hospital drop site and then to 14 feeding sites in Highland where kids would be sitting or playing, awaiting a nutritious, sack lunch.
Organizers served approx-imately 80 meals each day, or about 400 per week, for a total of 3,905 lunches served over 10 weeks between June 5 and Aug. 11. They said the program exceeded their expectations.
“I know there is room for growth and improvement,” said Loyet, one of the organizers who is already working on next year’s program.
She said that they would like to be more aggressive about getting the word out where lunches are available next year. “The only way the lunches got into the hands of the kids was if they came to one of the delivery sites,” said Loyet.
Children, mothers, fathers and grandparents expressed appreciation with heartfelt words.
“We often received thank you notes, but most importantly, smiles,” said Loyet.
The lunch service was not limited to the Highland city limits. Volunteers of the Meals on Wheels program picked up lunches from the St. Joseph’s Hospital drop site and delivered them to the rural communities within the school district that included Pierron, Alhambra, New Douglas and Grantfork.
Organizers felt it was very important to serve the entire school district which would not have been feasible without the involvement of so many caring, dedicated people.
“I would like them all to know how grateful I am for all their time and energy both of which are precious resources during the busy summer season,” said Loyet. “Thank you bunches! Also, thank you to the men and women of the Highland Rotary and St. Joseph’s Hospital for their kind and generous donations aiding in the lift-off of the program as well as St. Paul Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus and the Columbus Club for the use of their kitchens for lunch assembly,” continued Loyet.
“There were a multitude of local vendors and individual donors all of whom are owed a huge thank you! We had stations at the partnering churches where we received donations of 100 percent fruit juice. Thank you to all who donated juice as that was an enormous help in defraying program costs.”
Loyet said the success of this feeding program is owed to the amazing L.U.N.C.H. bunch and is “testimony of their love of our own.”
Reprinted with permission of The Pioneer Newspaper.