CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- This summer, hundreds of hungry children in Rossville, GA are enjoying free lunches delivered directly to their neighborhoods.  The Rossville Summer Lunch Program is a joint venture between the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and the Walker County Teen Resource Center.  The lunch program is funded through a $50,000 grant provided by the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

During the summer, children are provided sack lunches at seven sites, located near apartments and trailer parks where they live. Each sack lunch contains a sandwich, apple, milk and snack cake.  Meals are also given out at the Rossville Athletic Center, which is the staging center for the project. 

Food Bank staff  have witnessed the need in Rossville due to the number of children participating in their Sack Pack program.  During the school year, the Food Bank supplies 215 weekend food bags to students at Rossville Elementary and 130 bags to Stone Creek students.  Walker County, in which Rossville is located, receives more Sack Packs than any county in the Food Bank's 20-county service area.

A majority of the students attending the two elementary schools in Rossville, qualify for free or reduced meals, as determined by federal criteria.  According to the 2009 State of Georgia Schools Report Card, students from Rossville Elementary School are 86% economically disadvantaged, 79.43% are living in poverty and 77% are eligible for free or reduced meals in school.  Stone Creek Elementary students are 74% economically disadvantaged, 70% are living in poverty and 69% are eligible for free or reduced meals.

The Walker County Teen Resource Center was approached by Food Bank staff to help manage the program. 

Brenda Noblitt, volunteer coordinator for the lunch program has seen – up close – child hunger in Walker County.  Ms. Noblitt has taught in the area for five decades.

"This program is providing a much needed service for families in our community," said Noblitt, "Not only are children being fed, our volunteers are rewarded by their smiling faces."

The lunch program has 30 volunteers from the Rossville area, loading and delivering the meals.

The Chattanooga Area Food Bank operates three child hunger programs – Sack Pack, Kids Café and Children's Summer Feeding.  These programs work in conjuncture with other food bank programs that target families and individuals in need of hunger assistance.  The goal of these programs is to offer a source of nutritious food to children who regularly face food insecurity. To accomplish this goal, a continuous effort is needed to reach out to children living in underserved areas.

The Chattanooga Area Food Bank's Kids Café program focuses mainly on serving children living in urban communities.  This is due to the availability of youth centers that provide adequate sites for providing meals.   The Food Bank operates eleven Kids Café sites in Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tennessee. 

The Food Bank operates Kids Café sites at City of Chattanooga Recreation Centers.  The recreation centers provide after school and weekend programming for neighborhoods across the city.  The five neighborhoods that participate have higher than average poverty rates. Students in these neighborhood schools utilize free and reduced lunch programs, and also experience a greater than average single parent incidence.

Kids Café meals are also available through the Cleveland Boys and Girls Club, which has seven sites in Bradley and Polk Counties.  Three of these sites are located in rural communities.

The Chattanooga Area Food Bank's Sack Pack program reaches out to children who are not served through the Food Bank's Emergency Food Box and Kids Café programs.  These are children attending schools in the rural counties outside Hamilton County, the Food Bank's home county. Each week, the Food Bank provides Sack Packs to 1,600 students in 28 elementary schools.

In 2009, the Chattanooga Area Food Bank operated Summer Feeding programs at five sites.  Children at these sites received either breakfast or lunch.  A total of 14,860 meals were provided.  In addition, Sodexho, through a partnership with the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, provided 12,000 meals to children at four Boys and Girls Club sites, making a total of 26,860 meals at nine sites.