On Tuesday, Open Door Ministries and members of the Sedalia Area Literacy Council teamed up to bring lunch and books to children 18 and under at the Sunset Village Mobile Home Park, on West Main Street, as part of the Summer Lunch Program coordinated by Open Door.
Open Door Assistant Director Sue Foster said last year the summer food program fed 62,000 children; she is projecting they will feed 70,00o this year. Open Door has the food prepared and volunteers from 61 local organizations and 10 paid staff members help pass out the meals at five county locations and approximately nine Sedalia locations, plus one location each in Lincoln and Warsaw.
Foster said they fed 883 children on Tuesday.
“This is our fifth year we’ve done this,” Foster said. “Last year it was in the 700 range (per day).”
She said she is seeing an increase in children receiving lunch meals this year. The group delivers meals Monday through Friday to both Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri locations; Washington Elementary; Sunset Village; Homestead and Lone Pine mobile home parks; the Sedalia Housing Authority and Liberty Park. Tuesday and Thursday meals are also delivered to Vermont Park.
Foster noted that in July, once summer school ends, lunches will increase to 1,300 meals being served per day when the Sedalia elementary school locations open.
Open Door also does a Sunday supper meal for children at Church on the Move, located at 28th Street and Ohio Avenue, pastored by the Rev. Steve Palmer.
Open Door Board President Don Barbour said Open Door Ministries has been in operation for 41 years and that the food program for children is new for them.
“This is actually the first year that Open Door has taken on the responsibility of the Summer Food Program, that the Salvation Army had for the last few years ” Barbour said. “And Sue (Foster) was in charge of it there, and now she’s in charge of it here at our place. Our main distribution point is Washington (Elementary) School, and there we have set up our cooking facilities and our packaging capabilities. We have a staff that we hire to prepare the food. The cooks there at Washington stay on and and prepare the food.”
Volunteering to pass out lunches Tuesday at Sunset Village were Linda Close and her daughter, Laura Close, members of Our Saviour Lutheran Church.
The mother-daughter team said they usually had 30 to 40 children eat in the program by the time the summer school bus arrived at 12:40 p.m. each day. They are only one set of local volunteers from Our Saviour who help out each week.
“We come and help distribute,” Linda said. “I have helped for the past two years, at this location, and I think the numbers have stayed pretty constant.”
Once the bus dropped the children off from Pettis County R-XII summer school, the volunteers were swamped with smiling children lining up for lunch.
New to this year’s lunch program is a special book giveaway and reading session for the children by the Sedalia Area Literacy Council.
“This is a new project for us to do,” said Betty Albrecht, council president. “It’s a new pairing, and we’re going to donate books to the kids at lunchtime.”
Albrecht and council board members Karen Lynch and Sue Johnson also brought books and reading material for parents. Parents could take home cookbooks, cooking magazines and National Geographic magazines.
“So far we’re booked for this week and next week, on Tuesday’s,” Albrecht added. “We’re excited about it. We’re always looking for other groups to pair with.”
The women brought a wide selection of children’s books that would work for a variety of ages to pass out after lunch.
Receiving books from the women was Gracy Shaw, 8, who said her favorite author was Dr. Seuss and favorite book was “Go Dog Go!” On Tuesday she selected a Minnie and Mine “A promise is a Promise,” and “Rugrats in Paris the Movie Joke Book.”
And small smiles ruled as Estrella Rivera, 4, received her picture book, Walt Disney’s “Bambi,” and her lunch of spaghetti, green beans, fruit, bread and milk with the help of her mother, Esmeralda Alejundro.
Foster added the food program is funded by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the USDA.
“We are looking for more volunteers,” noted Foster. “The more volunteers we have the more sites we can open up.”
Those wishing to volunteer for the Open Door Summer Food Program may call Foster at 827-1613.