• Last modified 1573 days ago (Feb. 26, 2015)


'Lunch Bunch' program fully staffed with volunteers

Staff writer

Thanks to an outpouring of volunteers, parents of children in the Marion area grades K-12 can officially reallocate their child’s weekday summer lunch budget.

The city of Marion gathered enough support from groups within the community to participate in the No Kid Hungry federal program, which will provide free lunches to kids from USD 408 and USD 397 in kindergarten through high school every weekday during the summer.

“It’s so very exciting to see the incredible community support for the Summer Lunch Bunch program,” City Administrator Roger Holter said. “Our sponsors are an amazing group that deserves tons of praise and recognition.”

Groups volunteered in any of three ways: By providing three volunteers each day for five days in a week, by providing at least 150 pieces of fresh fruit for each day of the week, or providing $200 to fund a free swim day for all participating kids at the Sports and Aquatics Center.

City officials had expressed interest in the federal program, but weren’t able to officially sign up until all 10 weeks were stocked with volunteers, swim donations, and pledges of fresh fruit.

Holter said the city gave itself a 30-day window to fill all the necessary slots; it only needed 15.

“To me that far exceeds the expectations,” he said.

With the strong volunteer base, Holter said the program could expand two weeks further to cover the whole summer. With the start date of school not decided for fall yet, Holter said, the city will wait until school boards meet to initiate an effort to expand the program to 12 weeks.

“On a personal basis, I would like to do whatever it takes to make sure kids throughout the summer timeframe have access to summer meals,” he said. “But we know we’ve got 10 weeks covered, which is tremendous.”

Participating groups include the city and county offices, the Kiwanis Club, USD 408, the Presbyterian and Christian churches, Central National and Tampa State banks, St. Luke Hospital, 20th Century Club, Marion Recreation Board, Barely Makin’ It Antiques, Case and Son Insurance, Men’s Encounter, and numerous individuals.

“We’re a city of 1,980 people,” Holter said. “When you consider how quickly they pulled together the resources to do this, I’m somewhat amazed.”

Last modified Feb. 26, 2015