While many Mahomet residents don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from, there are some in the community who wonder if they will have enough to eat. But with the Mahomet Summer Lunch program, which is run by 10 community churches, those residents now know that every day during June, July and August, a hot lunch will be provided for them.
Each week a different church volunteers to serve lunch at Candlewood from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. When the program first started, the churches fed 20-30 residents each day. Program Coordinator Linda Meachum said this summer they feed between 60-90 people a day.
When the Mahomet Area Youth Club took their summer participants to Candlewood for lunch, the churches served 140 people.
“It has definitely shown us there is a need to continue this program,” Meachum said.
“The kids are usually the first to arrive and it’s a pretty set group that comes every single week,” she continued. “I always find kids willing to help us carry food in and help one another get their food. Last week there was a story that they had so many up in the clubhouse that the kids formed little groups on the floor, picnic style.”
Children usually stay after lunch to spend time together in the Candlewood pool. This summer the Mahomet-Seymour support staff is also providing reading help to the children on Wednesdays.
Meachum said there is a man whose wife cannot make it up the Candlewood clubhouse stairs who has come to lunch every day during the summer for five years.
“He sits down and eats with the others, then takes a container of food home to her,” Meachum said. “Sometimes we will also send leftovers home with people. If someone can use it, that’s great. We don’t want to take it back to the churches.”
“We don’t ask questions. We keep a tally of how many people have eaten that day for our own records,” Meachum said. “I feel like it’s a safe place where they can come, get a meal, and there are no strings attached. I think that’s really important.”
For the Mahomet churches who participate, it is about more than just providing a lunch.
“One thing that I love about the summer lunch program is that it isn’t just a “church” event–it’s a community event,” Mahomet Vineyard Church Pastor Leah Wegner said.
Whether it is a small group of individuals, a youth group or many community members getting together, the churches prepare and serve a meal for five consecutive days.
“I think just that the willingness to work together,” Meachum said. “It’s that sense of community. And basically, after I set the schedule, everyone does their own thing. Different churches do different things, but it’s getting people together for a common purpose.”
Meachum is the one who makes sure all groups have the supplies they need. She said she has noticed the price of paper goods increase over recent years, and that sometimes puts a burden on the group to find the funds to make that element happen.
The Mahomet United Methodist women provide desserts and the churches and the Mahomet Lions Club help with donations to cover the expense of plates, cups and cutlery.
“It’s nice to have people say, ‘Sign me up for the same week as last summer,’” Meachum said. “It’s a program that is taking care of itself. There’s not a lot of maintenance. That makes it so much easier on everyone.”
Meachum did say that if Mahomet residents feel so inclined, monetary donations made to her or to a church earmarked for the Summer Lunch Program will help with providing paper products. She also said if a financial donation is not possible, donating time to help cook or serve would be much appreciated.