PREBLE COUNTY — A group of local churches and other nonprofits is working together to make sure Preble County students have enough to eat this summer.
The Summer Cafe Program was started by local family service worker Amanda Myers, who reached out to Eaton-based Triumphant Life Ministries to help make the dream a reality.
“We worked alongside them to get this going,” Myers said of Triumphant Life, which operates a number of other programs in Preble County, including Dale’s Youth Cafe; an anti-bullying group; and the Angel Mechanic Program, which helps those struggling to afford auto repairs. “They helped with advertising and getting the word out.”
The program offers free meals three afternoons a week at three different locations throughout Preble County: Food for Families, located at 212 E. Main St. in Eaton, from 2-4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; First Southern Baptist Church, located at 35 N. Liberty St. in Camden, Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m.; and across the street from the Nickel-Saver gas station, located at U.S. 127 and National Road in Lewisburg, Thursdays from 5-7 p.m..
Summer Cafe volunteers hand out boxes containing five breakfasts and five lunches, one box per child. The meals follow USDA guidelines, and include staples such as fresh fruits and vegetables, cereal, granola bars, juice, milk, ravioli, macaroni and cheese, tomato soup, and tuna fish and crackers. The group is currently trying to work with local farmers to expand their offerings.
Myers has been on the board at Triumphant Life for years, but only recently organized the Summer Cafe Program in response to the struggles many families are facing due to COVID-19.
“It was a vision we had,” Myers said. “Something we wanted to do from the beginning, an idea we talked about that hadn’t really come to fruition. But now was a good time for it.”
The idea came to Myers, she said, about five years ago, as she was “lying in bed, not sleeping.” She then reached out to fellow members Troy and Jessica Maxel at Triumphant Life and Thomas Honaker.
“I said ‘Hey, I’ve wanted to do this for a while now,’ and they said, ‘That sounds wonderful,’” Myers said.
“I’ve seen the need for it for several years,” Myers continued. “This is the first time Preble County has had a summer lunch program.
Myers had high praise for local school districts in Preble County. Teachers and administrators worked hard to distribute lunches to students after schools throughout Ohio were ordered closed in March.
“We just kind of picked up where they left off,” Myers said. “And now that we have it started, there’s a lot of flexibility in what we can do. Every year I meet fifty to a hundred families, so I know that there’s a need for this kind of service. Some families would never tell you that they’re hungry, but once you talk to them you can tell that there’s a need.”
About 350 kids have signed up so far, according to Myers, but they expect that number to grow as they get the word out about the program.
“Our goal is to do it again next summer, but we’re looking at the possibility of doing it throughout the school year as well,” Myers said. “I’m excited that this is happening for Preble County, because we really needed it.”
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @improperenglish