*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said volunteers were still needed, but the program has already signed up enough.
Megan O’Neill is a senior magazine journalism student at the University of Missouri and Editorial Director at ContentAllStars.com.
June marks the beginning of summer for many Columbia-area students looking forward to the closing of another school year. But for CPS students participating in free and reduced lunch, it marks the end of a program that exists only during the in-session school months. For that reason, Lunch in the Park was created. The program provides healthy lunches to low-income children in the summer months.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department and Parks and Recreation provide food and enriching educational programs at Douglass Park between mid-June and mid-August. The extension of the school’s free and reduced lunch program is served Monday through Friday between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The Voluntary Action Center coordinates volunteers and encourages all to participate. Groups such as Girl Scouts, the Central Missouri Humane Society, TRYPS and more, provide the educational programs.
“We are encouragers as well as mentors,” says Columbia Sunrise Southwest Rotary member and volunteer Dr. Neil Riley D.D.S. “At this point, we can only judge success by the feedback from the students and our ability to show that we care about them.”
According to the Voluntary Action Center, more than 3,000 lunches were served through the Lunch in the Park program in 2012.
“It’s hard to measure the success of programs like this quantitatively,” says volunteer and Sunrise Southwest Rotary Club president-elect Dawn Shellabarger. “But I say look at the big picture and see the qualitative impact that you’ve made on the children.”