The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

June 19, 2014

Options help keep local kids fed over summer

OTTUMWA — Families with trouble paying for groceries during the school year may worry about going hungry during the summer.

"Normally, when kids are in school, a parent only has to budget for dinner and weekends," said Sue Huff, director of Iowa Kids University.

A local community support group, Growing Wapello Together, reports that in Iowa, 12 percent of the state lives below the poverty line. In Wapello County, 18 percent live below the poverty line.

And while "only" 14 percent of residents are food insecure in Wapello County, when it comes to kids, the number jumps to 1 out of 4.

By using government funding, the Ottumwa school district provides free or reduced lunch for most school children. Some children get breakfast, too, during the school year.

Instead of worrying about kids going hungry or the budget breaking, there are parents sending their children to activities that keep kids active and fed.

"The school district, for the last several years, has fed children who participate in our summer school programming," said Kim Hellige, community programs director for the Ottumwa school district.

That schedule includes summer school class and the PTYC (Prime Time Youth Care) program.

"They are provided with free lunch," Hellige said.

PTYC has more education added to it than a typical "day care" program, but one of the other options for parents, Iowa Kids University, is not in session long enough to even be considered a day care. Then again, there is no charge to families.

"We operate three hours a day," said Huff. "We don't have money for a bus to pick up kids. But really, this is not a place to just drop off the kids and forget about them. This is an enrichment program ... plus this year, we participate in [the State of Iowa] Summer Food program."

It wasn't easy to become part of that plan. Because the money distributed by the state was originally federal, there's a lot of paperwork involved. The summer enrichment program also had to get a food service license, be inspected and follow dietary guidelines. Luckily, she said, Church of the Bretheran near Pickwick school came forward and offered the use of its church and kitchen.

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