Free summer meals for Chattahoochee Valley kids - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Free summer meals for Chattahoochee Valley kids

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

School is out, but eating three healthy meals a day can be difficult for many children in the Chattahoochee Valley.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in five children are at risk of hunger nationwide. Some local food service programs say this many children go hungry every day in our area as well.

In order to help combat this problem, a local fitness gym is raising funds and awareness. Body BE 1, with two centers, one in Columbus and one in Phenix City, hosted its first ever 5K run and 3K walk in Phenix City on Saturday, May 31. The event benefits the  Backpack Buddies program.

"It's all about the kids," Roland Huff, the owner of Body BE 1 said. "We saw an opportunity to give back. I was one of those hungry kids when I was growing up. I actually didn't want the weekend to come, because that meant I wouldn't be able to eat three meals. There were 12 people in my family, so we all learned to take care of ourselves. When I found out about the backpack buddies, I reached out to them. This issue hits me near and dear to my heart."

About 50 people participated in the event, and each participants had to pay about $20 dollars of entry fee.

"These fees will support the Backpack Buddies," Huff said.

Jackie Dudley with Food for Kids Alabama said the Backpack Buddies is a program that is supported by Feeding the Valley.

"We fill up about 200 backpacks every Thursday night to hand to the children who need them for the weekend," Dudley said. "Each backpack is filled with 7 to 10 items of food. The children bring their backpacks again on Monday, and we fill it up for them by Friday. The schools know which kids need help. We do not meet the children, and we do not know them."

Dudley said the backpack program provides food for needy children every week, even in the summer.

"Anywhere from 82 to 86 percent of our children in our public school system are hungry," Dudley said. "This is a serious problem."

In addition, Muscogee County's Summer Food Service program is preparing to serve over 160,000 meals this summer starting on June 2.

"We serve free breakfast and lunch to students under the age of 18," Marian Bone, the school nutrition director said. "We will serve free meals to the students Mondays through Thursdays until July 24. Parents will have to purchase these meals, if they wish to have some."

Bone said the summer food service program is federally funded, and 23 schools are participating.

"We served about 139,000 lunches last year, and about 19,000 to 20,000 breakfast meals as well," Bone said. "Unfortunately, about 70 percent of the children in Muscogee County qualify for free or reduced meals. I hope all children who need them will come visit one of the 23 schools throughout the summer to get their meals. Again, all meals will meet the requirements for breakfast and lunch."

People wanting to donate money to the Backpack Buddies can make the checks need to be made payable to Feeding the Valley.

Students wanting to grab free meals from the Muscogee County Seamless Summer Feeding program can stop at one of the 23 schools. Breakfast will be served from 8:00 a.m. to 8:45 am. Lunch will be served from 11:00 am to 12:30 PM.

List of Muscogee County Schools participating in Seamless Summer Feeding Program:

1. Arnold Middle

2. Baker Middle

3. Brewer Elementary

4. Cusseta Road Elementary-June only

5. Davis Elementary

6. Dawson Elementary

7. Double Churches Middle

8. Early College Academy

9. East Columbus Middle

10. Eddy Middle

11. Forrest Road Elementary

12. Fort Middle

13. Fox Elementary

14. Hannan Elementary

15. Johnson Elementary

16. Key Elementary

17. Lonnie Jackson Elementary

18. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary

19. Rigdon Road Elementary

20. South Columbus Elementary

21. Spencer High

22. St. Marys Road Elementary

23. Wesley Heights Elementary

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