By Jenae Graves | AC JosepH Media Guest Blogger
MILLVILLE â€“ As schools let out for the summer, many things come to an end.
As the poem says, “No more homework, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.” The summer season opens up schedules for sleeping in and spending the days outside and with friends.
While all those are activities students and school-aged children can look forward to, for some it also marks the end of regularly scheduled meals.
Millville-based City’s Hope Community Development Corporation is a non-profit organization that is founded on equipping, empowering and educating the people of the neighborhood. In the past, City’s Hope has hosted holiday events for single moms and their children, after school tutoring for reading and math up to high school, housed a local elementary school STEM club and summer camp.
Of the numerous free programs run throughout the year, the summer food service program for children is amongst the organization’s favorite.
Because many Millville residents live below the poverty line, it makes it hard for children to find healthy and sustainable food options when school is out of session. That is where City’s Hope steps with its Bridging The Gap Food Program at 911 Church Street.
By offering free breakfast and lunch to any and every child that walks through its doors, kids can spend their summer energized and ready to play, instead of wondering when they will eat next.
“The goal of the program is to offer a safe space for children to eat fresh cooked meals and hang out with friends,” said Ralph Graves Jr., co-founder and vice president.
Each meal is prepped and served by food service professionals and volunteers, right from a Cumberland County Health Department satisfactory-rated kitchen. This free program runs every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from July 9 to Aug. 29. Breakfast runs from 9-10 a.m. and then reopens for lunch from noon-1:30 p.m., offering easy serving and health-conscious meals.
“The first few days of serving the children are slow, not many kids show up, but by the lunch session in the next few days the numbers grew,” one volunteer from last year’s session said. “The kids start to come in groups, and you get to see there is a real need for what we are doing.”
Twenty-seven children regularly showed up for both breakfast and lunch sessions by the end of the program. The program runs entirely on donations and volunteer labor. Businesses have grabbed hold of the vision and City’s Hope has received donations from several corporations including Wawa, ShopRite and Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
“There is just something about offering a service, and those it is created for responding to it,” said a volunteer chef for the program. “There is no pride in children. They take what they are offered, and they do so happily and readily.”
To register your child, visit the City’s Hope website. Download and return the registration slip with the child the first day of the program. If you would like to donate monetarily or with goods you can drop off cash or checks made out to City’s Hope to the headquarters in Millville. Tell a friend and let’s help City’s Hope Bridge the Gap together.