TROY — Clint Hufford comes to work every day knowing there are children going hungry at each and every one of the Troy City Schools.
And every day during the school year, Hufford, Troy City Schools Director of Food Service, and his staff do what they can to ease the burden on Troy’s children in need by providing free and reduced breakfast and lunch meals.
But what happens when the school year comes to an end, schools close for the summer and those meals no longer are available?
Hufford and his staff, along with a number of generous donors, organizations and volunteers, are there to help bridge the summer gap through Troy’s Summer Lunch Program, which is in its 18th year.
This summer, the program will offer thousands of free lunches to hungry children. The program runs Monday-Friday at four different locations strategically placed throughout Troy. Lunch is served from 11-11:30 a.m. at Gospel Community Church (1102 S. Market St.), noon to 12:30 p.m. at The Rec (11 N. Market St.), 12:15-12:45 p.m. at Garden Manor Community Room/Clubhouse (505 Crescent Dr.) and 12:30-1 p.m. at the Lincoln Community Center (110 Ash St.).
“I see firsthand during the school year how many hungry kids we feed and how those children rely on Troy City Schools to provide them a breakfast and a lunch,” Hufford said. “The thought of students not having an option to get a meal in summertime breaks my heart. The neat thing about this program is that any children 18 years and younger can come get a meal. The four serving sites do a great job of lining up different activities and games for the students to play, while also getting a lunch.”
The program, which began June 3 and will run through Aug. 9 this summer, serves roughly 130 lunches per day. Lunches are available to anyone 18 years old or younger. There is no application process necessary to receive a lunch.
“All serving sites welcome children who would like a free meal,” Hufford said. “We have lunch times staggered at the four serving sites to give children and families options. Simply show up and there will be a meal waiting for you.”
Troy City Schools food service staff members Michelle Green and Karina Wiley share the responsibility of overseeing the preparation, cooking and packaging of the meals every Monday through Friday. They are typically assisted by one or two volunteers who also help cook and prepare the meals.
“A big thank you to Andrea Keller at Partners In Hope for organizing and gathering volunteers to make this happen,” Hufford said. “Aside from the staff and volunteers who actually cook and prepare the food, each of the four serving sites has a designated leader to distribute the meals and ensure each serving site has what they need. Depending on the site and the amount of children they are serving at a particular site, some sites to have additional volunteers help distribute the meals, clean up, etc.”
Volunteer Mark Scott delivers the meals to each of the four sites on a daily basis.
“Mark is very active in the community,” Hufford said. “He works for Troy City Schools Food Service periodically, works for the Troy Schools Athletic Department and also works at the Lincoln Center.”
Hufford said he’d like to expand the program in the future, if possible.
“We are always looking for ways to make the meals more accessible for students throughout our town,” he said. “We plan on adding a fifth site next year around the Cookson/Sherwood Shopping Centre area.”
The Troy Foundation provides funding for the program.
“There are so many great people that make this program so effective,” Hufford said. “We would like to thank Melissa Kleptz and The Troy Foundation for their support, while also funding the meals. Thank you to Partners in Hope for writing the grant and supplying volunteers. Jessica Echols, who previously was the executive director for Partners In Hope, wrote the grant. Thank you to Carol Jackson, now the executive director for Partners In Hope, for assisting with oversight. Thank you to Andrea Keller for organizing volunteers.
“Thank you to all the volunteers. Without the great volunteers, this program wouldn’t be able to survive. Thank you, Mark Scott, for giving feedback and delivering the meals. Thank you to the staff at the four serving sites. Thank you to Michelle Green and Karina Wiley for leading the charge on preparing and cooking the meals. It’s a total team effort.”