Methodist Church moves Summer Feeding Program

By Tammy Keith Originally Published June 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 14, 2013 at 2:26 p.m.
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Tammy Keith

Kay McAlphin, 13, takes a sack lunch last week from First United Methodist Church volunteer Lisa Johnston during the Summer Feeding Program held at the Conway Housing Authority.

Children and teenagers, some walking with adults, made their way down streets and across yards Wednesday in the Conway Housing Authority neighborhood for a free sack lunch provided by First United Methodist Church.

The Summer Feeding Program started last year, said Kisha Bumpers, director of lay ministries at First United Methodist Church in Conway.

“We weren’t very successful. We got locked into a spot that wasn’t very conducive,” she said.

An average of only four or five children were served each week.

“We made a lot of changes this summer,” Bumpers said.

Church volunteers moved the program from a pavilion at Bob Courtway Middle School in Conway to 425 S. Davis St. in the neighborhood facilitated by the housing authority.

“The response last week was great,” Bumpers said. “It was slow. We kind of had to walk the neighborhood and drum up some people,” she said.

She said about 35 people — about 28 children and seven adults — were fed the first week.

Bumpers said the church was asked to start the program.

“We were approached by the Hunger Relief Alliance last year, telling us there is a need in our community, and I think there is; we just didn’t find it last year,” she said.

“These kids are home for the summer, and it costs parents more money to have them home and feed them.”

She said the first week’s lunch consisted of a ham sandwich, a bag of chips and prepackaged carrots, a cup of mandarin oranges and a bottle of water. Peanut-butter crackers were added to serve as a snack.

This week, instead of a sandwich, the children received prepackaged peanut-butter-and-jelly sticks.

The food either was donated or purchased inexpensively by the church from the Arkansas Foodbank, Bumpers said.

For example, the church paid $8 for 40 pounds of ham, and $7 for 250 peanut-butter-and-jelly sticks.

“Basically, our lunch bags are following the DHS [Department of Human Services] idea of a serving of fruit, a serving of vegetables, and we’ll have some extras in there,” she said.

Bumpers said she originally thought the program would cost $250 to $300 a week, and it has been about $200 a week.

“Right now, we’re spending less than $2 a bag, just because of the food we’re getting at the food bank.”

A bank account, which has about $1,500 in it, has been set up for the program, Bumpers said.

“Our congregation has been very generous,” she said.

Any money not used this year will be held over for next summer’s program, she said.

The leftover lunches aren’t wasted, either.

Bumpers said the first week, leftover bags were taken to Brookside Mobile Village and Bethlehem House, the city’s homeless shelter.

First UMC volunteer Lisa Johnston and her daughter, Olivia, 8, handed out lunches last week.

“I think it’s a really good cause,” Lisa Johnston said. “A lot of kids don’t have the stability like during the school year. It’s a good way to make sure they have a healthy lunch.”

Olivia said participating in the project made her feel “happy.”

Lillie Rowland, 7, one of Olivia’s friends from Girl Scouts, came to get a lunch, and they hugged.

Volunteers aren’t limited to First United Methodist Church.

Sylvia Walker, director of the food pantry at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, also volunteered Wednesday.

“We don’t have enough money, or people, to do this, although Kisha is doing it economically,” Walker said.

Bumpers said the Summer Feeding Program is just that.

“We’re not there to do any type of program or faith campaign,” Bumpers said. “We do put a sticker on their lunches that gives our church name, and they may have some sort of phrase on there.”

The program will continue from noon to 1 p.m. each Wednesday through Aug. 14, she said.

“The housing authority told us they have around 70 kids between the ages of 5 and 18,” Bumpers said.

“We would hope that eventually we are feeding most of those kids, if not all of them.”

She said children from nearby neighborhoods are welcome, too.

“It would be exciting if by the end of the summer we were feeding 100 kids,” she said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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