For many children, summer is a no-worry time. There’s plenty to do, plenty of sleep and plenty of food.
But there are children, even within Mahomet, who wonder if they will have enough to eat when school is not in session.
The Mahomet Summer Lunch program, which has been run annually by 10 community churches, helps bridge that gap for children and families in the Mahomet community who need a mid-day meal during the months of June, July and August.
Each week different church volunteers serve lunch at the Candlewood poolhouse 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 last summer they fed between 60-90 people a day.
“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.”
Children usually stay after lunch to spend time together in the Candlewood pool.
But the kids are not the only ones who benefit from the lunch. Meachum said that there are usually husbands or wives who come enjoy the meal with the community, then take food home to their loved one who may not be able to make it out of the house.
“Sometimes we will also send leftovers home with people,” Meachum said. “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.
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.
Summer lunches will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. beginning June 4.