Family Advocacy Center leads the state in eliminating childhood hunger; Summer Lunch Program returns on June 3

May 14, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 1 comment

This year, each Grab and Go bag will provide seven breakfasts and lunches. (Submitted photo)

Ottawa County is leading Ohio in preventing childhood hunger during the summer months. The state’s Grab and Go meal program provides a week’s worth of food for children when school is not in session. Last year, Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center (OCFAC) distributed 15% of the state’s Grab and Go meals through its Summer Lunch Program.

Since 2020, the Summer Lunch Program has distributed 220,000 meals to county children in the summer months. Last summer, the program distributed 97,720 meals. This year, OCFAC Executive Director Connie Roe and Office Manager Ashley Walterbusch want to provide more food to more children. Last year, each Grab and Go bag provided breakfast and lunch for five days. This year, the bag will include meals for seven days.

“My goal is 175,000 meals this year,” Walterbusch said.

Each week, local families in need are welcome to pick up a Grab and Go bag for each child ages birth to 18. Each bag will include seven breakfasts, seven lunches and two half gallons of milk. Adding milk to the bag may seem insignificant, but Roe and Walterbusch witnessed firsthand the need for simple necessities like milk.

Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center Office Manager Ashley Walterbusch, left, and Executive Director Connie Roe, hold a Grab and Go bag full of food that will feed a hungry child. The women hope to distribute 175,000 meals through the Summer Lunch Program this year. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“There were boys playing in the side yard one day, and they didn’t know we were giving out lunches. I invited them in, and one boy was so excited to get milk. He opened it and drank it right then,” Walterbusch said. “He said he hadn’t had milk in a long time.”

The image of a child expressing such excitement over milk stayed with the women.

“It’s a driving force for us. It really is,” Roe said.

The Summer Lunch Program runs June 3 through August 15. The food is distributed at various pickup sites across the county, including sites in Port Clinton, Marblehead, Oak Harbor, Genoa and Elmore. This year, two evening pickup sites were added. Registration is required weekly.

The Summer Lunch Program was so popular last summer that it was difficult to find space for storing and transporting food. This year, the Family Advocacy Center will have access to a refrigerated truck and a van. (Submitted photo)

Walterbusch’s bold goal of 175,000 meals is doable thanks to amenities added to the program this year. A No Kid Hungry grant is helping fund the rental of a refrigerated truck, and OCFAC is renting a van for transport.

“We never dreamed we’d have these types of opportunities. It’s a big deal,” Roe said. “We’re making capacity-building moves.”

To reach more children, OCFAC needs more help. The food bags are filled assembly-line style by a rotating team of volunteers. To reach their goal of 175,000 meals, OCFAC needs more help. Two-hour packing sessions are held on Mondays through Thursdays. Volunteers are welcome to sign up for one day or several days.

“We moved our assembly work site to R.C. Waters because they have more space,” Roe said. “We need more people to volunteer to help.”

Grab and Go Meals is a Department of Education program and is run according to USDA guidelines, which requires that funding be used for specific foods only. However, outside donations allow OCFAC to add other fun things to the bag, like candy or small gifts.

OCFAC’s passion for helping children has created a program that was noticed by the state.

“The state has used us as an example of how to do non-congregate meals. They’ve visited us to observe our program,” Roe said.

Although the recognition was appreciated, Roe and Walterbusch simply want to feed children.

“The end goal is to get food in the hands of children in the summer,” Roe said.

Parents must register their children weekly for the Summer Lunch Program. To register, view a list of pickup sites, sign up to volunteer for packing days, or make donations, visit www.ocfamilyadvocacy.org and click on the “Summer Lunch” tab.

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1 Comment

  1. Scott Gresser

    While we all appreciate the great things organizations like this do to help the disadvantaged, but the one thing we never hear from any of them is what they are doing so they are not needed anymore. Remember, if you’re not needed, it means everything is going well.

    Reply

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