Families in need can find free meals for their children at schools and apartment complexes across Clark County, though the annual program will look different this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Share Vancouver launched its annual summer meal program Monday, and the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Washington is set to begin serving meals on Wednesday. Both programs will extend through Aug. 14, a week longer than summer meal programs typically run.
In years past, those organizations have encouraged kids to hang out, play and participate in summer programs on site. Now, however, they’re asking that families grab their meals and move along.
“This year we’re doing all grab-and-go service,” said Becci Read-Ryan, Share Vancouver’s hunger and nutrition programs manager. “We’re following a similar model (to schools) where parents of kids can walk up or drive up, grab their meal and leave.”
All children ages 18 or younger are eligible for summer meals, regardless of income or residency status. Read-Ryan said that’s particularly important to undocumented families, who may otherwise not feel safe engaging with a government program or social service.
“There’s no paperwork, no requirements,” she said. “It’s a really safe program for folks who don’t feel safe. Just show up and if you need a meal, you get a meal.”
Meals, which typically include a sandwich or wrap, a fruit and a vegetable, are prepared by volunteers. Read-Ryan said volunteers are required to wear masks, are observing physical distancing and are bleaching surfaces regularly.
Share Vancouver estimates it handed out more than 18,000 meals in 2019, though with social distancing restrictions in place and few summer programs for children, it’s difficult to know what to expect this year, Read-Ryan said.
“This year it’s just a mystery,” she said.