Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank program keeps children fed through summer

June 19, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Thanks to the National School Lunch Program, while school is in session, parents can be sure that their children are kept fed.

But during the summer months, the important resource is no longer available, placing an added burden on families.

Nearly 1,700 children in the Issaquah School District receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s website.

But thanks to the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank’s Summer Lunch Program, children in its service area can receive free snacks and food, ensuring adequate nutrition during the summertime.

Every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank plans to pass out a grocery bag full of food to children from the community. Food will be distributed in the small greenway directly across from the food bank. The program begins June 26 and runs through the summer.

Cori Kauk, the food bank’s executive director, hopes the bag will provide 50 percent of the child’s lunch and breakfast needs for a week.

How to help

Donate or register at www.issaquahfoodbank.org. Learn more about sponsoring a week of lunches by emailing Cori Kauk at cori@issaquahfoodbank.org.

In the program’s inaugural year last year, the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank served about 200 children a week. Kauk hopes that number increases this year.

“I wish we had more kids,” she said. “I mean if we have 1,700 kids that are getting free or reduced lunch, that means, in my mind, that there are probably 1,700 kids who could use free lunch during the summer months.”

But the Summer Lunch Program doesn’t just provide food. Last year, the program provided jump ropes and sidewalk chalk. Volunteers are also on hand to play with the children. The idea is to encourage physical activity during the summer, Kauk said.

The food bank receives extensive help from Eastridge Church, which coordinates volunteers for the program.

Z Tyree, the student ministry director at Eastridge Church, worked with Kauk to develop the program. Tyree said the church didn’t hesitate when partnering with the food bank.

“We as a church had volunteers, so we were able to step in and help make this partnership happen,” Tyree said. “Eastridge Church does a lot for the community. We just have a heart for making sure that families have the basic essentials.”

To be eligible, a child needs to be school-aged and live in the food bank’s service area covering the 98027, 98029, 98075 or 98059 ZIP codes. Kauk asked that participants register for the program by filling out a registration form located on the food bank’s website. Participants may also register in person when they pick up their food.

The amount of food in the grocery bag depends heavily on community donations. The food bank is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to accept donations. But Kauk tells people to think healthy when donating.

“I encourage people who are looking to help us out to give raisins, dried fruit, to think about healthy options,” she said. “The kids in our summer program deserve apples and nuts — things that are really healthy.”

The food bank is also looking for service groups, churches, families or individuals to sponsor a week’s worth of lunches throughout the summer. A week’s worth of lunches amounts to about $500, or enough lunch, breakfast and snack items to fill the grocery bags, Kauk said.

Kauk is passionate about the program. Not only does it provide healthy nutrition for children, it also eases the pressure and stress on parents struggling to feed more mouths during the summer.

“Programs like this matter,” Kauk said. “Programs like this are important because we have lots of children in our community that aren’t getting enough healthy foods during the summer.”

Christina Corrales-Toy: 392-6434, ext. 241, or isspress@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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