Libraries gear up for summer food programs as demand remains high

Ted Doggett, operations manager at the Greene County Public Library, loads up a library truck with food and snacks for kids. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Ted Doggett, operations manager at the Greene County Public Library, loads up a library truck with food and snacks for kids. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

As pandemic-era provisions for school meals expire, nonprofits and government entities are working to ensure local kids in need get enough to eat this summer.

Greene County Public Library is partnering with Feed the Creek, the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Community Support Center, and the Children’s Hunger Alliance to provide school-age children with nutritional snacks at all seven library locations.

“Kids who don’t eat don’t read,” library executive director Karl Colón said. “Once we got rolling, we saw we can’t stop yet.”

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Last summer, Greene County libraries gave out 10,000 meals. Since the 2022 summer food program has started up, Greene County libraries have given out 1,600 meals in the last two weeks.

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Youth Services Coordinator at the Greene County Public Library Kim Bautz delivers bags of snacks at the Xenia library, Tuesday 14, 2022. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Youth Services Coordinator at the Greene County Public Library Kim Bautz delivers bags of snacks at the Xenia library, Tuesday 14, 2022. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Youth Services Coordinator at the Greene County Public Library Kim Bautz delivers bags of snacks at the Xenia library, Tuesday 14, 2022. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

“People are so thankful,” said youth services coordinator Kim Bautz. “One family came in, the mother was trying to work, and the grandmother wasn’t sure if they could afford food because of high gas prices.”

Ohio families have several avenues to get free or reduced-price meals throughout the summer. The Fairborn and Xenia libraries distribute hot meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program, which reimburses program operators who serve free healthy meals and snacks to children and teens in low-income areas. Dayton City Schools and Trotwood-Madison schools are also part of this program.

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The USDA typically uses school and census data to determine who is eligible for summer school meals. For the 2021-22 school year, districts served free meals to all students regardless of income, due to the impacts of COVID-19. However, that provision has since been lifted. Nonprofits say that with gas prices reaching an all-time high, other pandemic-era aid has gone away, but the need hasn’t.

“We had increased demand even during the school year, almost 100 kids a week, compared to previous years,” said Sharon Fulcher, founder of Feed the Creek, which provides bagged lunches and snacks for kids in Beavercreek schools. Roughly 46% of students in Beavercreek alone receive free or reduced-price lunch, Fulcher said.

“A lot of it is grandparents raising grandkids. If you’re a grandparent and you own your home you are not getting any government assistance,” she said.

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Sharon Fulcher, founder of Feed the Creek and Evan Scott, community info coordinator at Greene County Public Library, load carts of meals and snacks to take to the Xenia library branch. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Sharon Fulcher, founder of Feed the Creek and Evan Scott, community info coordinator at Greene County Public Library, load carts of meals and snacks to take to the Xenia library branch. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Sharon Fulcher, founder of Feed the Creek and Evan Scott, community info coordinator at Greene County Public Library, load carts of meals and snacks to take to the Xenia library branch. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Carts are in the children’s section of each library, so families or kids can grab a snack or a meal. The Children’s Hunger Alliance has also partnered with Greene County libraries to provide food for five locations that didn’t qualify for USDA assistance, including Beavercreek, Bellbrook, Jamestown, Cedarville, and Yellow Springs.

“We talk a lot — it’s almost cliché at this point — about hunger being a hidden problem, but when you’re a public library and you put that food out, it’s not hidden now,” Colón said.

Summer lunches are available through Fairborn City Schools and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on Monday through Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Fairborn Community Library, 1 E. Main St. in Fairborn. Lunches are also available at Xenia Community Library, 76 E. Market St. in Xenia on Monday and Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.

Find a complete list of USDA summer meal sites at www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids.

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