On a warm August day, a small group of children hovered around a bucket of multicolored beads at Steven Phillips Community Center in Monaca. Each one scooped up a handful of beads and settled in to create a necklace or bracelet. Some immediately began stringing beads in a colorful pattern while others carefully sorted their beads into color-coordinated piles.
As part of the Beaver County Summer Food Program, similar craft activities were occurring simultaneously at more than 40 local churches, community centers and playgrounds. This year’s summer food program served more than 58,000 healthy meals to children who ordinarily receive free school lunches. For some children, this may be their only meal of the day during the summer months.
Ever mindful of the most poor and vulnerable, the Sisters of St. Joseph have contributed $30,800 since 2012 to expand the reach of the summer food program and to offer enrichment activities for the children who attend. The funding provides transportation to get children to the food sites and craft supplies, like beads, construction paper and paint, to make lunchtime enjoyable. Seven food sites this summer received assistance from the Sisters of St. Joseph.
The Sisters joined the Beaver County Summer Food Program Task Force in 2012 after learning that only one out of every three children eligible to receive a free summer lunch was actually receiving it. The Beaver County Commissioners and several organizations, including the Beaver County YMCA, Salvation Army, United Way of Beaver County and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, began to strategize the best way to reach more children in need.
As the number of designated food sites increased, the number of children fed by the Beaver County Summer Food Program increased by 34%. The organizations also collaborated this year to prevent the closure of eight food sites, which serve hundreds of local children.
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