Food and fun night to combat kids’ summer hunger
Nearly 30,000 students in the Fredericksburg area rely on free and reduced-price meals during the school year.
When school is out, those meals disappear.
One local nonprofit hopes to bridge that gap by using paddle balls, marbles and bowling pins.
The Fredericksburg Corps of the Salvation Army launched Friday Night Food and Fun this summer, a weekly event that includes games for children—and food to take home.
The food and games are geared toward filling two summer needs that parents face: Feeding their children and keeping them busy.
The weekly events are part of a partnership with the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank’s Kids on the Go program.
That mobile food pantry delivers bags of food to agencies throughout the area. Each bag contains breakfast and lunch items geared toward children: cereal, oatmeal, juice boxes, canned fruits and snacks.
“We encourage the sites to also run some sort of activity for the kids, so they’re not only being fed but also being educated,” said LaToya Brown, coordinator of children’s programs for the food bank.
The sites include summer school programs, enrichment activities, summer camps and the Salvation Army’s new weekly program.
At Friday Night Food and Fun, the organizers offer simple games like stacking plastic cups into pyramids, knocking over bowling pins, paddle ball, dominoes and more.
About 50 children have attended each of the first two events. Parents said that the games and activities were the main attraction, but that the food was also a help.
“It’s no fun for people to just stop by and pick up food,” said Margie Brewer–Zambon, social services coordinator for the Salvation Army. “We wanted to give them something to do.”
Throughout a recent evening, kids ran around the building, playing games and enjoying small pieces of candy.
When it was time to go, each child got a bag of food, a coloring book and a bean seed with a pot of soil and instructions on how to grow it.
Brewer–Zambon said that she hopes to get about 100 children attending Friday Night Food and Fun each week.
About 845 kids will get meals through the food bank’s Kids on the Go program, Brown said.
The food bank plans to expand the program next year and to serve prepared meals to children throughout the Fredericksburg area.
“We definitely want to bridge that gap of summer hunger,” Brown said.
Amy Umble: 540/735-1973
WANT TO GO?
Friday Night Food and Fun will be held Fridays throughout the summer from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Salvation Army Annex, 821 Lafayette Boulevard. For details or to sign up, call 540/373-3431.
WANT TO HELP?
To help the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank’s children’s programs by either donating money or volunteering, go online to fredfood.org or call 540/371-7666.