Making a Difference: Summer Lunch Program expands

Kids who receive free or reduce meals during the school year and leave for the Summer, that need doesn't go away, but the meals do. (WJAC)

MEYERSDALE -- Kids receive free or reduced meals during the school year.

When they leave for the summer, that need doesn't go away, but the meals do.

In Somerset County, a program is becoming much more available -- so much so that organizers expect to feed thousands more this summer.

The process to help children in need starts at the First United Methodist Church on Main Street in Meyersdale. They’re cooking up burgers and packing up milk for the hot lunch they're providing for children at the Park Fuller Playground.

"Summer becomes very expensive. Just feeding your kids that one or two extra meals a day," said Jessica Tannehill, Meyersdale Summer Lunch Program administrative assistant.

Tannehill said Monday through Friday volunteers make and deliver a free meal to the playground for kids 18 and under.

Typically, they serve hundreds of lunches weekly, but sometimes it's well over a thousand.

"We have 14 sites. We're doing the football team, the volleyball team, and the band camp this year towards the end of summer," said Tannehill.

"We're reaching kids in the county we've never been able to reach before," said Kelsey Gross, of the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank.

In fact, because they're taking on more programs and camps, they expect to serve 11,000 meals. That is well above the 2,700 they provided last summer.

"This is a full meal. They're meeting all of the dietary requirements that they have through the USDA, the Department of Agriculture is involved, the Department of Education is involved in this," said Tannehill.

"Somerset more than any other counties I’ve been to has really stepped up," said Gross.

Most of the food comes from the partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, but they also use local products as well.

Tannehill said it's not just the adults that volunteer and make this program happen, the children step in, too.

"That surprises me. They are extremely gracious and thankful," Tannehill said.

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