Hunger doesn’t go away for Christmas break

For years, they’ve worried about kids in the summer.

When school was out and summer classes were over, and breakfasts and lunch weren’t provided every day, what would the children do? How would they eat?

So in 2008, Raytown Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) started the Summer Lunch Ministry and started feeding kids. A year later, four churches and other volunteers began to jump in, and since then the ministry has grown so much, with many more churches and volunteers, that last summer it delivered an average of 350 lunches a day.

And then this year, another question popped up.

What about Christmas break, when school’s out for about two weeks and families are strapped for cash?

Again, the ministry is coming up with a solution.

Dozens of volunteers are scheduled Friday to hand out bags of food to about 200 families in Raytown to help get them through the holidays. Among the food will be bread, peanut butter, jelly, apples, cereal and a half gallon of milk.

“It’s a long break,” said Cathy Wood, director of the Raytown Summer Lunch Ministry, which is providing the bags of food Friday.

The group gets food from Hy-Vee at cost. Donations and grant money help pay for the summer program, and with money left over from that, the group is able to do the extra food over this Christmas break.

Volunteers see feeding hungry kids as something they can — and should — do.

In the hot months, when the group delivers sack lunches for six weeks at the end of summer, they get to know the kids. They still see images of the young people, often with their bare feet hitting the hot pavement, running up to the truck or church bus.

“They’d be excited to get a lunch from someone they knew, a face they recognized,” said Hannah Steele, 15, a freshman at Raytown High School who has helped out the past three summers. “It really only takes your time to change a child’s life in the summer.”

And also during the winter.

Volunteers will go to most of the same drop-off spots Friday as they use in the summer, said the Rev. Dawn Weaks, co-pastor at Raytown Christian Church. Raytown residents have received fliers about the food delivery.

“This is an investment not only to care for children, but care for the future of our community,” Weaks said. “We feel like a community that wants to be a strong community … needs to make sure children get good nutrition.”