JEROME — The Jerome School District and United Way are now offering a summer feeding program for families looking to enjoy a hot meal and enjoy the day outside.
The district already has six other sites that are providing free meals for people in need. However, this new program, "Picnic and Play" which is located at ICCU Park gives kids the opportunity to interact with their peers and community.
“At all the other sites, you just show up and get your food and go home," said Katie Rogers, the Food Service Director for Jerome School District. In a traditional year, you’d have to stay and eat it but because of COVID, we’re able to send them home. At the picnic and play site here at ICCU, they get to stay and participate in an activity, maybe make a couple new friends.”
The program kicked off last Tuesday, and the district estimates they're serving roughly 300 kids at ICCU Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays when activities are available and 200 on days when activities are unavailable. District-wide, officials estimate over 1,200 families are served a day.
While the Jerome School District and United Way are in charge of this program, they are having help from other local organizations that provide the activities. Already they have had several come out, and they plan to have more in the coming weeks.
“CSI Jerome came, and they did some activities, some games with the kids in the park," said Deloris Argyle, the United Way Jerome Community Coordinator. "On Thursday we had the Jerome Historical Society, they brought their wagons and horses.”
Some of the other organizations that are lined up for the future include family health services, the local police, and fire department.
“We have Parks and Rec coming, we have St. Luke’s coming," said Rogers. "I think we have FFA coming, and I know we have Fish and Game too.”
Although the activities are a great addition to help make the event more fun, being able to provide free meals for families is the most important part.
“We have a very high poverty rate here, and migrant program here and everything. So there’s a lot of families that enjoy the free meals and take advantage of the program,” said Rogers.
The program is also helping those who have recently been hit hard by COVID-19.
“To be able to get two meals a day, they get a breakfast and a lunch here," said Argyle It’s great for our families, it helps some of our families that have been struggling with this COVID that we went through or any financial situations.”
Those who are and have been taking advantage of the district's free meal programs are appreciative of the effort put in by all the different organizations involved.
“It’s good, especially with six kids," said Melissa Cellan, a Jerome resident who has children in kindergarten and grades 2,3, and 5. "Just having something that’s not going to cost a lot that we can enjoy together as a family.”