At our May Membership meeting, after Cheri Pogue spoke about the summer lunch program run by Kids Meal Network, she invited us to come out to one of the sites they run to see our work in action.  (Cherie is the COO, United Methodist Church Union and this program has received two grants from G2G.) One hot summer day in June, Bridgit Wolf, Kathy Philson and Darenda Lease visited the Pine Run United Methodist Church in Clairton to see the program in action, and to see another location the Parkford Apartments (pictures below) where lunch had been served earlier in the day. (Wish you could’ve seen the auditorium/lunchroom where the meals are served – it was all decorated fabulously for their Vacation Bible School – what a community!)

This program provides a hot meal (mostly lunches, but some locations have more of a need for dinner or breakfast, and sometimes a snack – all to be eaten on location) for any child who comes to the facility, no questions asked.  Planning for these meals is a challenge – as the number of children expected can suddenly decrease without knowing.  For example, it was Kennywood Day in Clairton when we visited, which the volunteers didn’t know about until one of the children told them.  We all know how expensive food is, and no one wants the food to go to waste (remember, this is a hot meal with milk and fruit – nothing to take home!).  It was interesting hearing about the challenges Kids Meal Network faces, including waste and how they deal with it. Volunteers at Pine Run come right from their church, and they know the community and most of the children well.  This works especially well when there is the rare behavior problem – because the volunteers are part of the community and usually are aware of family struggles, it gives them much-needed extra vision. It was heartwarming to see the volunteers and children communicate with each other.  What we witnessed was only hungry, pleasant kids and caring adults.
We wondered how families learn about the food programs.  One way is regular old advertising, but the most effective is word of mouth.  They also use signage that is clever and simple – see the second photo for an example.
The three of us were honored to have Cheri Pogue spend her time showing us the great work they do.
United Methodist Church Union
Sign outside of United Methodist Church Union advertising free lunch for kids