Loretta Jones, an ordained minister, treats each day like she’s heading out on a mission trip. Her mission is to help ensure the kids in her community have enough food to eat.
“I’m interested in helping kids grow in a positive way,” Loretta says. “So if by serving food helps them, that’s what I do.”
That mission involves teaming up with the Capital Area Food Bank, which has worked with her employer, City Gate, for more than a decade to provide breakfast and lunches to kids throughout the summer.
City Gate, which serves summer meals at the Mary Virginia Merrick Recreation Center in DC’s Ward 8, is among 30 sites where the food bank partners with community groups all summer long to provide free meals and snacks to all kids.
For too many children, school may provide the only nutritious meals they receive on a given day. When summer break starts, kids lose that critical lifeline.
To help connect more kids with meal sites this summer, the Capital Area Food Bank has launched webpages with interactive maps to help families locate sites near them: KidsMealsDMV.org and ComidasParaNinos.org.
Loretta says she does see more kids struggling to get enough food during the summer months. The kids who come to her meal site “want to eat right away,” she says. Toward the end of the month, when families may see support from public-assistance programs running out, she also notices more children coming through the door at mealtimes.
“There’s no money for things like food. That’s sad to say,” Loretta says. “But they know if they come here … that I can get me a lunch, I can get me a snack, I can get dinner.”
Loretta tries to build upon the love of food that she sees in the kids she serves. She’s started a cooking club to help kids who struggle with fractions. After all, she says, cooking “is all about numbers.”
She also keeps a stash of cookies as a reward for those who help pick up trash or aid her with other tasks that keep the program running.
On a recent muggy afternoon, the food on the lunch menu was followed up by frozen treats.
“These kids are well-fed thanks to the food bank,” she says.