Free meal program gets rave reviews

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

The Trimble Banner

Perhaps it’s the economy. Or maybe the food is just that good.

At Morgan Community Center in Bedford, coordinator Rita Davis said she and her summer meal program volunteers have served as many as 70 meals in a day – about twice the average number served last year.

Operated by the Trimble County School District, the Summer Food Service Program is federally funded and the meals are provided to children under 18. In addition to the Bedford location, the meal program is offered at the Milton and Bedford Elementary Schools and at satellite locations at Milton Park and Hardy Creek.

Meals are prepared at BES and served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each location calls in the number of meals that will be needed each day, Davis said. On the second day of the program, which started Monday, June 8, she said she had to call the school twice to keep up with the crowd.

The program ends July 2.

David Baker of Bedford, who brought his three children – Charlie, 14; J.C., 8; and Evelyn, 6 – on Thursday, June 11, said his kids really enjoy coming in for lunch.

“And it’s one less meal you gotta fix,” he said. “The people serving the food are all volunteers. They do it for nothing, and they all love the kids, especially Miss Rita.”

Charlie Baker said he thinks the program  shows “the county really cares for the kids.”

And, he added, the program “makes it easier for kids to play with each other and talk” with friends they might not otherwise see when school ends. “It helps give you plans for what you’re going to do during the summer.”

Tonya Taylor of Bedford also brought her children – Nick, 8, and Alyssa, 5 – to the community center on Thursday.

“I think this is nice. I know the kids enjoy it. When they’re done eating, they can go play basketball,” she said. “It gives them something to do in the summer.”

On this day, however, a disappointed Nick returned to the table where his mother was seated and complained that the gym was closed. Set up inside were long tables filled with bread products that were past their “sell by” dates.

Davis said these items – including Krispy Kreme doughnuts, loaves of French, Italian and all kinds of other breads – are donated by Kroger, and given away on Thursdays to anyone in the community who wants them. The limit is four items per person.

Volunteer Chris Kopcho, whose husband is a bus driver for Trimble County schools, said she’s enjoyed watching the children grow up during the four years she’s been involved with the program. She said one day her husband came in for a meal, and he introduced her to some of the children he knew.

“All the kids were surprised to find out he was married,” she said, laughing.

Jim Davis, Rita’s husband, also volunteers with the meal program – and just about every other program Rita “ropes” him into, he says. He believes “it’s a great thing. ... It helps the kids, and that’s the main thing.”

At Bedford, the program is, indeed, a family affair. Kopcho is Rita’s cousin, and Jim Davis’ brother and sister-in-law, Doug and Cricket Davis, also volunteer.

Cricket Davis said the program is especially needed by children whose parents work all day. “You know they’re getting at least one hot meal a day. ... There are a lot of kids out there that don’t eat at home. They can come here and eat. I think it’s great.”

For more information about the meal program and other summer activities offered for children at the center, call Rita Davis at (502) 255-4879 or 255-4961.