Letter to the Editor:
The Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center has provided summer lunch to children across Ottawa County for many years. Before the pandemic, we provided congregate meals in four locations: two in Port Clinton, one in Oak Harbor and one in Genoa. We provided approximately 300 lunches per week and small bags of “weekend” food to those who chose to take them.
We provided this service funded completely on the generosity of private donors and businesses in the community with no assistance from the USDA or the Ohio Department of Education.
With the onset of the pandemic and the great concern for how isolated children would gain access to summer meals, our “Grab and Go” style lunch was born in 2020. We applied for and received a grant from the Ohio Department of Education to provide the equivalent of 10 meals (5 breakfast and 5 lunch) each week in approximately 12 drive through locations across the county.
In 2020, we provided 42,000 meals including fresh food, milk, and other dairy products. We were amazed and all of this was possible through a USDA waiver of mandatory congregate meal settings amongst others.
Summer 2021, the pandemic continued and the waivers through the USDA remained in place and awareness of our program increased and we deliver 88,100 meals to children all across Ottawa County.
In the most recent appropriations, these waivers through the USDA were abolished. Not only does this eliminate our ability to distribute food, but it also stops the free school lunch programs in place for the last two school years. At a time when food costs are spiraling and inflation is high, funding programs to combat hunger and the instability of families is crucial.
We respectfully urge that you reach out to congress and ask that these critical waiver capabilities of the USDA be restored so that food continues to be available to those children most in need.
Executive Director Connie S. Roe
Ottawa County Family Advocacy Center