TANNERSVILLE, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – It’s the first day of spring, but some community leaders in the Poconos are already thinking ahead to summer. They came together for a special summit on Wednesday to address summer hunger among students in our region.
This is the NEPA Summer Meals Matter Summit at Northampton Community College in Tannersville. The goal is to enhance the summer food program for children in need.
Current and prospective summer food sites and sponsors came together to network, share ideas, and learn. They want to find more sites to host summer meals, and build participation among students.
“If they all work together and collaborate, they have a stronger voice,” explains Susan Dalandan, Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council.
Hope Christman is director of Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network, which provides summer meals in Monroe County’s West End.
“Being in a rural community it’s very difficult actually to find the locations to serve students for summer lunch,” she explains.
We’re told 50-percent of children in Monroe County alone receive free or reduced lunches during the school year. Although they’re all eligable for free summer meals, only 15-percent take advantage of them.
“Today the topic really is how do we grow the number of summer meals we can produce in our community?” questions Michael Tukeva, Executive Director, Pocono Alliance.
Organizers say, if eligable children don’t take advantage of this program, it sets them behind in school and could put graduation at risk. “So that’s short-changing out entire community,” Dalandan adds.
Members of local school districts, non-profits, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education shared insight during the summit.