Summer Food

Front row from left, Savannah Bratton, 2, Destiny James, 9, and Austin Bratton, 3, and back row, Paige Piper, 4, hold their free lunches provided by the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services Department Friday, July 9, at Glenwood Park, located at 825 W. 10th in Ada.

Ann Piper brings her young daughters, nephew and niece to Glenwood Park located at 825 W. 10th in Ada, Okla., around noon almost three times a week.

At the park, each child receives a free lunch, provided by the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services Department.

“This definitely helps. The milk alone is a lot,” Piper said on Friday, July 9.

The department, in participation with the United States Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program, is providing free nutritious meals to children between the ages of one and 18 at 14 feeding sites in Ada, Ardmore and Tishomingo.

The meals are also provided at Chickasaw Nation youth camps and clinics, Chickasaw Foundation Upward Bound Program at Murray State College and several area church events and Bible schools.

“The program puts nutrient-rich food in the hands of the children during the summer months when school is not in session and children are at risk nutritionally,” said Program Coordinator Debbie Zachary.

A typical meal consists of a turkey, ham or roast beef sandwich on whole wheat bread, baby carrots, grapes and milk.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said that this program fills a “vital need” for hundreds of children.

“Proper nutrition is essential to the physical and mental development of our children,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “That need for good food to fuel the bodies and minds of our children is just as important in the summer months as it is during the school year.”

A recent report from the Food Research and Action Center highlights the importance of the program. 

According to the report, only one in six low-income students, who depended on the National School Lunch Program while school was in session, had access to summer meals in 2009.

The report also states that  Oklahoma’s  summer nutrition participation rate ranks last nationally with the state managing to reach only one out of 20 low-income children in 2009.

The tribe, which has been providing the program to Oklahoma children since 2006, seeks to increase the participation with its first ever daily feeding site in Glenwood Park, Zachary said.

The feeding site serves lunch from noon to 1 p.m. every weekday through Aug. 6. 

All other locations serve breakfast, lunch or snack at specified dates only.

“This has been a very successful venture with attendance reaching over 100 children per day at times,” Zachary said of the tribal endeavor at Glenwood Park. “This is a wonderful example of the Summer Feeding Program at its best.”

With the daily feeding site,  Zachary said that the participation in this year’s Summer Food Program is expected to exceed the 10,000 plus meals the department served last summer. The department has already served 7,675 meals in June.

The Chickasaw Nation Summer Food Program is also looking forward to increasing the number of sites and areas served next summer by working with local organizations.

 Zachary said there are many ways to operate a feeding site and there are also a large variety of locations that have sponsored sites such as local churches, libraries, parks and neighborhoods. 

She also encouraged people to volunteer in preparing and giving out meals to children.

“As the general community becomes more aware of the opportunities to sponsor a site and that assistance is available through the Chickasaw Nation Summer Food Program, more hungry children will receive nutritious meals,” she said. “We just need more people with a heart for feeding hungry children.”

For more information on the program as well as dates and times for the feeding locations, phone Debbie Zachary at (580) 272-5368.

About Food Research and Action Center (FRAC):

FRAC is a non-profit organization working for more effective public and private policies to eradicate domestic hunger and under nutrition. To learn more about the report and the organization, visit www.frac.org.

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