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Naturally Impactful: Summer Food Program Largest in the State

Anne Evans Anne Evans Naturally Impactful: Summer Food Program Largest in the StateA child eats a strawberry at a Columbus Recreation and Parks Department's Summer Food Site. Photo courtesy CRPD.
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The Columbus Recreation and Parks will hold a kickoff for their Summer Food Program, now in its 47th year, at the Linden Community Recreation Center today, Tuesday, June 14, 2016, at noon.

The program started its food service at 72 sites on Monday June 6, and now has nearly 230 sites up and running.

Last year, the program served 630,000 meals, a 30% increase from 2014. Summer Food Program Coordinator Julie Pruett Bishop estimates the number of meals to be about the same.

“Columbus Recreation and Parks Department has really stepped up to be the food resource for the children and families in critical need,” she says. “It’s important to get kids what they need, for them to be healthy, and to help the parents out and be a partner in our communities.”

A Summer Food Program Site. One of nearly 230. Photo courtesy CRPD.

A Summer Food Program Site. One of nearly 230. Photo courtesy CRPD.

Food sites vary throughout the neighborhoods, they could be part of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s summer food locations, some Columbus City School’s offer programming, some are neighborhood churches, or YMCAs. Anywhere a community partner has offered to be a sponsor.

“They are all safe locations for kids to come,” says Marketing Manager Jennifer Horn.

In areas of the city where there is no sponsor, or no suitable safe place to house a site, the Strawberry Food Truck provides a place for the food program.

The Strawberry Food Truck helps carry the Summer Food Program into neighborhoods with food deserts. Photo courtesy CRPD.

The Strawberry Food Truck helps carry the Summer Food Program into neighborhoods with food deserts. Photo courtesy CRPD.

The Strawberry Food Truck launched last year. Built in Columbus at the All a Cart, and with the wrap design done by artist Kenny Cramer, the food truck is a large billboard advertising that kids can come receive fresh food.

New for 2016, the food truck will also be utilized for special events, on its way to becoming a social enterprise.

“The primary use for the food truck is to get food into food deserts,” says Bishop. “The secondary use is to have it booked for events, where the food is donated and a chef donates their time, and have the profits from the food sales support the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department’s summer and after school programs.”

The first location you will find the Strawberry Food Truck is at Zoofari, on Saturday, June 18th at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Avishar Barua, chef for Middle West Spirits’ upcoming restaurant, will be behind the menu for the first event. Other scheduled chefs and events include: Marcus Meacham of Steam at the July 8th Rhythm on the River, Isadora Diaz and Lara Yazvac at the August 19th Rhythm on the River, and Cameron Mitchell Restaurants at Craft Brew at the Zoo on August 26th.

“With the five celebrity chef events set up for the summer, we have a goal of raising $10,000,” says Bishop. They are also open to having it booked for private events.

Bishop has been involved with the summer food program for three years. This is her first year serving as director. She most enjoys seeing the impact this program has on our city’s kids, families, and communities as a whole.

“We build relationships with families at these summer food sites,” she says.

It’s Amanda Wampler’s first year working as a Program Specialist for the program, she concentrates on marketing the program throughout Franklin County.

“It’s great to see Columbus Recreation and Parks taking the lead on this,” she says. “There is still a high need in Franklin County. Many of the sites need help with staffing and programming.”

Wampler says many groups have come forward to partner on the program, cultural entities such as COSI and the Columbus Metropolitan Library, but also smaller groups such as individual yoga instructors or people teaching karate.

“We will collaborate with as many groups as we can,” she says.

Bishop acknowledges that it is all of the collaborations that allow this program to thrive and be successful.

“There are much larger cities with huge need that do not have the sponsorships and partners that we do,” she says. “That’s the reason we can do it.”

Summer Food Sites can be found throughout the city and anyone ages 1-18 can come and receive a free meal. The meals cycle every 10-11 days, do not include pork or nuts, and locations throughout the city serve the same meal each day.

For more information, visit columbus.gov.

CRPDLogowith_MayorNaturally Impactful is brought to you by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, which works to enrich and change the lives of our citizens. The column is an effort to share the story of how the pillars of Health and Wellness, Conservation and Social Equity drive the work we do. Each month the column will focus on different sections of the department using these pillars to create a positive impact on our residents’ and visitors’ quality of life along with providing basic knowledge of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, #CRPD. To find more about upcoming happenings at your Columbus Recreation and Parks, visit their Facebook page, Twitter page, or columbus.gov/recreationandparks.

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