A program that has provided free meals to needy children during summers for three decades has been shelved in a southwestern Ohio city.
Family Service of Middletown cited operating costs and budget and staffing constraints for the move.
Its board president, Jeff Jehle, told the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News that the agency will focus on year-round efforts to feed families. He called the summer lunch cuts “a very tough decision.”
The agency last summer offered nine sites around the city, providing 30,000 lunches along with tens of thousands of weekend meal backpack packages in the Carel Cosby Summer Food for Kids program.
The agency got state reimbursement for the $140,000 program, but operating expenses were higher, and the staff had to keep up with very strict meal rules.
Jehle said the program was impacting the year-around effectiveness of Family Service of Middletown. It had reduced the number of sites last year from 14 in 2012.
Barbara Klie, program manager, said that though the cut wasn’t a surprise, it was “very disappointing.” She said many children “absolutely” depended on the meals. On Fridays during the summer, children got bags of “kid-friendly” meals with milk to take home to make sure they didn’t go hungry on weekends.
“We are concerned about the children, obviously,” Klie said.
However, the Salvation Army has said it is expanding its own summer lunch program to help offset the cuts in Middletown. “That’s a good thing,” she said.