Summer vacation means not doing homework and not waking up early. But for some students, it also means eating fewer meals than they would during the academic year.
Fortunately, a Quin Rivers and Crossroads Mission Center partnership provides weekly meals and snacks for King William children in need.
Just in its second year, the King William County Summer Feeding Program bridges the summertime gap for students who depend on the school cafeteria to provide a source of food. About 100 children receive food through the program, which is close to double the participants compared to last year, Quin Rivers Board of Directors President Anne Mitchell said.
Quin Rivers is a social services nonprofit that operates several programs across the region, while Crossroads Mission Center is a religious center in King William.
A student's diet greatly affects his or her academic success and behavior, and a better diet is linked to better test scores and attendance. A summer feeding program ensures students start strong nutritionally when school starts in the fall, according to program documents.
The program's defining feature, a delivery service that brings food to children, seeks to address problems associated with King William's rural character, namely distance.
Since volunteers deliver four meals and two snacks per week for 10 weeks to food-insecure children at their homes, parents and guardians don't have to worry about maintaining vehicles, driving long distances to pick up donations and potentially missing work, Quin Rivers Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator Lee Ailstock said.
In King William, 1 in 3 children live in poverty and 34 percent are eligible for free and reduced lunch, according to Quin Rivers statistics.
Of the county's estimated 16,334 residents, about 23 percent are under the age of 18 as of 2016, according to census data.
A couple dozen volunteers gathered to pack up food delivery bags Aug. 8 at Crossroads Mission Center. Among them was Geoff Lawrence, who has volunteered with the program all summer.
Lawrence packed up bags alongside his wife, Terra. The couple brought along their three children to impart the value of community service and charity.
"We want to instill the heart of giving," Lawrence said.
Also a program volunteer driver, being engaged with the program is a humbling experience, Lawrence said.
All told, volunteers packed about 250 gallon-sized bags of food for the program that day. Each bag contained a couple drinks, like milk and juice, along with combinations of pasta, crackers, cereal and other items. The food will be delivered over the following three delivery days.
The program bought food with corporate and private donations. Dominion contributed the most funds at $2,500. Foods are selected with an eye toward how easy it would be for a child to prepare them, Ailstock said.
Program officials send out application notices to King William and West Point students in the spring. Participants have to sign up for the program, and most children in the program receive free or reduced lunch during the school year, Ailstock said.
The program currently only serves students in King William and West Point schools. Quin Rivers hopes to expand the program to King & Queen children in the coming years, Ailstock said.
Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.
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