FORT CAMPBELL, KY, UNITED STATES
Story by Sirena Clark
The Fort Campbell Child Nutrition Program began offering free drive-through grab-and-go breakfast and lunch meals June 14 to children up to the age of 18 while post schools are on summer hiatus.
This summer program is the same as the one offered to support children and Families while schools were closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first couple weeks of operating this summer, the program served nearly 7,000 meals, said Elaine Dawkins, Fort Campbell Child Nutrition Program director.
The program is important because it benefits students and employees alike, Dawkins said.
“It works for our students, and it works for our employees,” she said. “It keeps our employees employed and it keeps our Fort Campbell students fed nutritional meals.”
Since its inception in March 2020, Dawkins and her staff have learned how to better run it, especially now that they have a better idea of the actual need.
According to Dawkins, the program is a win for everyone because staff enjoy feeding the kids, the students get a nutritional meal while parents can save a little money.
“They can take those funds and do other things.” she said “If they need those funds to pay bills or do whatever else they need, that kind of frees up some money for them and it keeps them fed.”
Mesha Eanes, a manager at Marshall Elementary, enjoys making a difference through the program.
“It’s great, it feels awesome because some kids are not as fortunate to get a daily meal like lunch or breakfast in the morning, so it feels good that we’re serving them.” Eanes said.
Since the start of the program the number of parents who partake has steadily increased, and Eanes doesn’t expect it to slow down anytime soon.
While students receive healthy meals through the program, some parents said their children also enjoy the routine of going to the school and interacting with staff, and the trip has turned into a positive and fun experience for them.
Nychel Mejia, a military spouse, said her children enjoy coming to get their lunches and telling staff how many meals they need.
“It’s nice for the kids to come out and they get surprise lunches. They never know what they’re going to get,” Mejia said.
The program is available 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday at Barkley and Marshall elementary schools, except holidays. Children do not have to be students at Fort Campbell schools to participate and parents do not have to apply or qualify for the program.
Lunch is different every day and includes breakfast for the next day. If parents are interested in participating, they can simply drive up to the designated pick-up area at either elementary school and ask staff for the number of meals required.
The summer grab and go meal program ends July 23, with a barbecue celebration at Marshall Elementary School. Parents and their children are invited to enjoy hotdogs, chips, drinks along with an afternoon of fun.