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Helpline recognized for lunch program

A local food bank was recognized recently for its efforts to provide meals to hungry children during the often lean months of summer.

South Kitsap Helpline executive director Jennifer Hardison said one of her agency’s programs, “Summer Lunch Camp,” was honored earlier this year by its larger partner in Seattle with an “agency excellence award.

“We’re really excited,” Hardison said, explaining that Food Lifeline, the largest non-profit food bank distribution agency in Washington, gave the program its “Excellence in Food Resource Development” award, which includes a $5,000 grant.

According to a Food Lifeline release, SK Helpline “demonstrated its efforts to provide more food for hungry people (by launching) its ‘Summer Lunch Camp,’ a free, drop-in lunch program which helped local children in need in a fun, meaningful and innovative way during the summer of 2006.”

Hardison said her agency began the program to fill the gap in meals for hungry children during the summer when they no longer receive meals at school.

She said the grant money will be used to run the program again this summer, but added that soon there may no longer be as great a need for it, since the school district plans to begin offering lunches in the summer.

“They are starting at Sidney Glen this year, but we will still offer the lunch camp this summer since the school district is only offering it at one location, and that may be hard for a lot of my clients to get to,” she said.

Hardison said another positive about her agency’s summer program being recognized is that it would bring it to the attention of other food banks who might then try a similar program.

“It would be great if they copied it,” she said, explaining that she hoped to inspire other small food banks to introduce programs they might have considered, but have been hesitant to try.

Another summer program Hardison said her agency started and is preparing to continue again this year is “End Summer Hunger,” which she said is designed to benefit the entire family over the season, which is typically quite lean for her agency.

“Our food bank is hit extra hard in the summer, when the money and donations dry up,” she said, explaining that in 2005 she began the program with help from the Kitsap Community Foundation.

With money from the foundation, Hardison said her agency could provide bags of peanut butter, cheese, milk, and 100-percent orange and apple juices twice a month to 50 families, which was in addition to the normal monthly allotment.

“With donations from the community, we were able to feed 75 families last summer, and this year we are hoping to serve 100 families,” she said, explaining that she also has grants pending that she hopes will help her reach that goal as well.

“It’s a way to give families really healthy, nutritionally rich foods that we don’t often get donated,” she said, adding that the food bank buys the products “outright,” and that donations for the program are always “gratefully accepted.”

To donate, call 876-4089.

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