It almost seems unreal that the summer is more than half way through. All of the anxiety about starting summer operations has dissipated. CKECU has provided almost 200 meals to needy children since starting summer operations at the end of June, and expects to provide about 150 more before the summer is over.
Entering into this summer none of us quite knew what to expect, especially in terms of working with the Summer Food Service Program. “Things won’t be drastically different from our normal operations,” reassured Chelsey Bennett (AmeriCorps VISTA and CKECU Coordinator) during a shift leader meeting in mid-June, “There will only be some minor differences.” These differences include: additional paperwork, providing milk with every lunch, a change in the meal prep schedule, and a switch from congregate to individual meals.
“My impression has changed immensely,” exclaims Zach Baker, CKECU shift leader and student worker, “I thought it was going to be really busy and hectic due to the fact that we were approximating 75 kids being served per shift. [During the academic year CKECU feeds between 20-50 children each meal.] Even though are numbers are not as high, due to enrollment, I still think we would have been able to handle it; we could even handle 100 lunches per shift if we had to.”
“I expected our summer operations to be more of just doing things behind the scenes. It has been rewarding, encouraging, and inspiring to me,” stated new shift leader, Blair Sauls. Blair has helped out with the majority of the delivery shifts thus far this summer. After passing out all of the bagged lunches and milk cartons, Blair cherishes seeing all of the girls at Operation Sunshine enjoy their healthy lunches. (She also looks forward to be complimented on her outfit every week by the same little girl).
Finding volunteers in the summer is a rarity in itself. We’ve had the same group of 2-3 volunteers for most of the summer. “They made a really great assembly line,” remarked Lauren Banks, a senior shift leader, “It was a lot less stressful than regular shifts.” During the academic year shift leaders don’t always know what they will be preparing until the day of. Working with the Summer Food Service Program, a detailed menu for the entire summer has been created in advance.
The favorite meal so far has been the Chicken Caesar Salad wraps. We’ve used precooked chicken strips that we warm up when making the lunches. They lie atop a bed of lettuce and a helping of Parmesan cheese, and then are all rolled up in a wheat tortilla. We keep the Caesar dressing on the side so the wraps don’t get soggy over night. The girls also receive a cup of fruit on the side for dessert. A close second favorite is the Southwestern Turkey style wrap with homemade salsa on the side.
“Besides providing meals, I think this has done a lot for the students helping out. They are more aware of the constant hunger problems we have right down the street, literally,” said Blair when asked about our biggest impact so far this summer. Zach adds, “We have shown volunteers that volunteering can be fun and rewarding at the same time. Hopefully, this encourages them to continue volunteering and making a difference in their community.”