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Living and growing: A helping hand for summer lunches

Posted: May 19, 2013 - 12:01am

These last weeks of school are hard. I’m not even a teacher, but I am a mother who tries to put kids to bed with cries of “it can’t be time for bed, it’s still light outside.” We try to get to bed at our normal time, but somehow it becomes later and later. So a big sorry to all the teachers out there who have to deal with tired kids on top of the normal end of school year wildness.

Also a big thank you to all those who work in our schools. Amazing stuff happens in those walls. Schools are one of the last places where kids gather across ethnic, social and economic backgrounds to figure out how to function together. Kids are loved, taught skills and given healthy boundaries. Kids are also fed.

At Shepherd of the Valley, we have a small emergency food pantry. Last year, most of the pantries in town started meeting on a monthly basis to talk about how to complement each other in providing emergency food to the vulnerable in Juneau. One of the surprising trends that many of us noticed was the increased use in the summer.

That seemed counterintuitive until we realized all the extra mouths to feed in the summer. We had grandparents, on fixed incomes, who watched (and fed) grandchildren through the summer, neighborhood moms who ended up with half a dozen extra kids for meals, and families who depended on school lunches to give that little relief to resources through the week.

Many of the schools serving Mendenhall Valley have around a 40 percent free or reduced lunch rate. That is not enough to meet federal guidelines for assistance, but it does mean that around 40 percent of the youth who depend on lunches through the school year lose that valuable help. At Shepherd of the Valley, we decided to try a summer lunch program last year. We had anywhere from three to 36 youth a day for a hot meal and fun activities. We ran a drop-in program from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and we learned alot.

This year, we are hosting a summer lunch program again. Our kick offevent is a bike rodeo on Sunday, June 2 from 4-6 p.m. Families may stop by the church for free hot dogs, a bike course with the Department of Transportation, helmets provided by Alaska Injury Prevention Programs and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, minor bike repairs with Juneau Freewheelers Bike Club, a bike swap with bikes donated by Juneau Police Department, and lots of carnival games.

The summer lunch begins on Monday, June 3. Outside supervisedrecreation activities begin at noon, lunch is served from 12:30-1:30 p.m., followed by outside recreation until 2 p.m. We do not provide transportation, but we will provide walking/riding buddies to help younger kids get to the church safely. Every day also has a different activity. Mondays are science day, Tuesdays are nature exploration, Wednesdays are cooking, Thursdays are crafts and Fridays are music and stories. We will have reader buddies available every day with lots of books.

If you are interested in more information or would like tovolunteer, please call Shepherd of the Valley at 789-4093 or check out the website at sovlutheran.org. We will ask volunteers for information needed for a background check. Douglas will also host a summer lunch site this year. Their program will run from noon-2 p.m. at Douglas Methodist Church. For more information regarding the program, please call Douglas Methodist at 364-2408.

• Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor for Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

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