A Hillsboro City Schools food program that has served nearly 40,000 meals over the last two summers was honored as a Children’s Hunger Alliance Program of the Year this week in front of 700 guests at the 24th annual Menu of Hope luncheon presented by Nationwide in Columbus.
Hillsboro’s Summer Nutrution Program, initiated two years ago by Food Service Director Jessica Walker, was one of five programs statewide recognized.
Rick Jardiolin, director of marketing and communications for Children’s Hunger Alliance, said the Hillsboro program was nominated for the award because Walker had “gone above and beyond” to make the program a success.
“Really, this is about her vision, and the increase in the number of meals served last year,” Jardiolin said.
In its first year the program served 16,884 meals over 46 days at eight sites. A year ago, the program operated for 50 days at 12 sites and served 19,553 lunches plus 2,394 breakfasts.
Walker said he was shocked when she received notice of the award because she didn’t know her program had been nominated.
She said there are many people in the local community that might be shocked to realize how many kids are hungry in the summer when they aren’t receiving food at school, and that it is often not because their parents don’t have jobs, but because they make a little too much to receive assistance. And, she said, when there several children in the home, the money the parents make is often not enough to meet all their needs.
“There are kids here that are hungry. People might understand, but I don’t think they comprehend how many kids need food,” Walker said. “We try really hard, and hopefully we can take some of those of those barriers away. That’s what the Tomahawk (food truck) does. It goes where a lot of people can walk to it, and it goes to places where it’s needed.”
Anna Aber, the site manager for the summer feeding program, attended the awards ceremony with Walker.
This summer, Walker said, she hopes to add a 13th site. She said the program will host a kickoff party on May 24, and that most of the stop locations and times will remain the same.
The Menu of Hope luncheon unites business, nonprofits and community leaders to end childhood hunger in Ohio, a news release from the Children’s Hunger Alliance said. Each honoree was selected based on their notable work in helping feed healthy and nutritious meals to children and making a difference in their communities.
The honorees and their specific awards were:
* Hillsboro School District; Summer Nutrition Program of the Year, Hillsboro.
* Patricia Keaton; In-Home Childcare Provider of the Year, Portsmouth.
* Tracy Stainer, owner of the Kid’s Garden; Childcare Center of the Year, Mt. Vernon.
* Logan-Hocking School District; School Breakfast Program of the Year, Logan.
* Glenwood Community Center; Afterschool Program of the Year, Columbus.
“Over 500,000 children in our state live in food insecure homes – meaning they don’t know when they’ll eat next,”said Judy Mobley, president and CEO of the Children’s Hunger Alliance. “Our partnerships with providers, like those honored at Menu of Hope, is critical in helping these children in need.”
In the last two years, Children’s Hunger Alliance has provided close to 14 million meals and snacks to underserved children through its partnership with the program providers across Ohio, the news release said.
Walker said in her video testimonial that “Children’s Hunger Alliance is the reason why we fed 38,000 meals in two years.”
The luncheon featured keynote speaker Jeannette Walls, author of New York Times best-selling memoir “The Glass Castle.” Walls spoke to the audience about her life growing up in extreme poverty and emerging from it.
“That’s what this lunch is about. Some of these people have fallen and it’s not their fault. It’s certainly not the kid’s fault,” Walls said, according to the news release. “It’s reaching out and helping somebody. There is no shame in falling.”
The Children’s Hunger Alliance is a statewide nonprofit organization providing healthy meals and snacks, nutrition education and physical activity to food-insecure children to help end childhood hunger.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.