Food insecurity continues to be a problem in Delaware County, but once again there will be a free “Summer Food Service Program” for Delaware’s children.
Since Woodward Elementary School is currently under construction, this summer’s venue is Willis Intermediate School at 74 W. William St. Visitors should use the entrance at the corner of William and Washington where they will be greeted and directed. Registration is not necessary. You don’t have to show any papers, and zero background questions are asked about income, residency, immigration status, or the like. Any child under 18 is eligible, including those not yet old enough to go to school.
The service is offered now through Aug. 12, Monday through Friday, from noon 1 p.m. Friday customers will receive a backpack with food items for the weekend; the empty backpacks must be returned the following week. The meals are provided without charge and are the same for every child regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. Some free clothing is also available just outside the cafeteria.
A typical meal may consist of a hamburger, chicken patty or pizza slice along with vegetables, fresh fruit or applesauce. A limited vegetarian option is available to those requesting it. Milk is served as a beverage since this is a USDA-supported program. Following the nutritional lunches, the children are then treated to daily activities that teach them educational and social skills. They may include arts & crafts, songs or free books. On the day of a recent visit, they were playing board games.
Not only do kids get to eat for free, their parents or guardians too get similar free lunches this summer, thanks to a new initiative developed by the Andrews House in partnership with the Delaware City Schools.
Volunteer coordinator Carrie Grogan stated that it takes about a dozen or so volunteers to run everything on a daily basis. She also said that at the 2015 Summer Food Service Program, held at Woodward, about 100 children participated on average. The numbers are slightly down this year because the new location is not as conveniently located as Woodward. Also, it seems that not everyone in Delaware may be aware of the program at Willis. Surely there are many more families with low and moderate incomes in the four city wards who would benefit from the service.
There may be those who criticize these subsidized meals. They would like to see the “welfare state,” as they call it, scrapped and replaced by more emphasis on “personal responsibility.” But to abandon Delaware’s food-insecure children would be unconscionable. Societies have an ethical obligation to keep their children fed, safe and healthy. This program is a sound investment in the future of the local community. It ensures that kids remain both physically and mentally fit over the summer and one day become productive members of society.
In short, the Summer Food Service Program at Willis is a great service for Delaware’s children. Thanks to all the partners and volunteers who are contributing to its success. And let’s not forget to thank our political representatives for supporting such beneficial and bipartisan programs that strengthen local communities. Please help spread the word that this free-meal option exists.
Thomas Wolber teaches in the Department of Modern Foreign Languages at Ohio Wesleyan University. He has a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He serves on Delaware’s shade tree commission.