JPS feeding thousands of children to help tackle child hunger in metro area

Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 10:14 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It is hard to believe, but millions of children right here in the United States, including Mississippi, do not have access to healthy foods.

In fact, some homes here in the metro are not able at times to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children, which can cause physical and mental health problems for students and lead to poor educational performance.

The JPS Child Nutrition Department is offering its Summer Food Service Program to help tackle this hunger problem.

“When you are hungry all day, that is all you are going to Focus on is eating, so that is a major problem,” Ramona Spann said.

Spann is the co-owner of the JC & Liz Youth Enrichment Transformation Center.

For the past three years, she has brought her students to one of the multiple locations Jackson Public Schools has opened over the Summer for kids to eat free breakfast and lunch.

“A parent told us about the program. They told us about it several times, but we decided three years ago to try out lunch and we’ve been coming ever since,” she said.

JPS Child Nutrition Department offers its free Summer Food Service Program yearly to make sure children have access to a balanced, healthy meal so they won’t go hungry.

“Any student 18 and under can stop by one of our 15 locations and have breakfast and lunch with us,” Marc Rowe, the director of the child nutrition program said.

He says the program has been filling the need in the community for more than 30 years. The program kicked off on June 6 and will run through July 14 at 15 schools throughout the Jackson metro area.

“We serve about 25,000 lunches and 15,000 breakfast meals.”

Many students who depend on the breakfast and lunch program during the school year, are facing challenges when the summer break hits. Parents are also feeling the economic burden when the school doors close.

JPS offering program to help tackle child hunger in metro area
JPS offering program to help tackle child hunger in metro area(WLBT)

“The challenges are they have to buy more food because the children are there all day, and some parents are not able to for them,” said Spann.

The prevalence of food insecurity is high in Mississippi, higher than the national average at 15.3 percent (for the three-year period of 2019-2021).

Rowe says that’s why it’s key that JPS helps close the gap here in central Mississippi.

“We have had an increase of 700 lunches and 500 breakfast meals a day. Most of the students come from Jackson. Many of them are Jackson Public School students,” he said.

Spann and Rowe say the goal of summer feeding programs like this one is to help promote healthy eating and make certain no child ever goes by providing a lifeline to those in need.

“It’s very important. It’s very important, because some children may not be able to eat a meal, maybe just one meal without a program like this, is it so it’s greatly needed,” said Spann.

“We are doing a better job of making sure the community knows what we have going on here. We want to make sure the students are healthy and strong and make sure they are nourished,” said Rowe.

The JPS Child Nutrition Department will be offering its Summer Food Service Program from June 5 to July 14. Serving times for breakfast will be 7:30 a.m.- 9:00 a.m. and the serving times for lunch will be from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday at the locations listed below.

Meals are at no cost and must be consumed on-site. The program will be closed on June 19 and the week of July 3-7.

Children must be 18 years old or younger to participate.

  • Bates Elementary School, 3180 McDowell Road Extension
  • Blackburn Middle School, 1311 West Pearl Street
  • Boyd Elementary School, 4521 Broadmeadow Drive
  • Callaway High School, 601 Beasley Road
  • Cardoza Middle School, 3180 McDowell Road Extension
  • Casey Elementary School, 2101 Lake Circle
  • Chastain Middle School, 4650 Manhattan Road
  • Clausell Elementary School, 3330 Harley Street
  • Galloway Elementary School,186 Idlewild Street
  • Green Elementary School, 610 Forest Avenue
  • Jim Hill High School, 2185 Coach F. Harris Street
  • Key Elementary School, 699 West McDowell Road
  • Provine High School, 2400 Robinson Street
  • Raines Elementary School, 156 Flag Chapel Road
  • Sykes Elementary School, 3555 Simpson Avenue
  • Van Winkle Elementary School, 1655 Whiting Road

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