No school means no food for some area students - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

No school means no food for some area students

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Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Inches of snow and ice in the Tennessee Valley and in North Georgia forced dozens of schools to close this week.

And true to tradition, many students played in the white stuff, followed by a mug of hot chocolate.

But being away from the classroom isn't a break for some children.

It's actually a time filled with worries for kids on the free and reduced student lunch program.

The Salvation Army East Lake Community Center started serving dinner as part of their services three months ago.

But as the director told Eyewitness News, anytime school is out, the need for a good hot meal grows.

"It's been hard this week because the program is shut down because of schools being closed for snow," says Holly Martin.

In Hamilton County alone, 22,000 students depend on their school for breakfast and lunch.

"We use the schools as sort of a distribution to get the sacks home to the children," says Martin.

Holly Martin runs the snack pack program through the Chattanooga Food Bank. The program sends a bag home with kids Friday night with enough food to get them through the weekend. But this week, breakfast didn't come again Monday morning.

"Home cooked meals, spaghetti, lasagna garlic bread, corn," says Guy Johnson.

Guy Johnson has come to the Salvation Army ran East Lake Community center for years.

"Play basketball until it's time to eat, then we get back to playing again," says Johnson.

About 20 to 30 kids from East Lake Courts Public Housing eat dinner here regularly.

"I think some of them are getting nutritious meals and things like that, but it's always good to ensure they get a nutritious meal when you have them here for a substantial amount of time," says Stephen Dark.

Community Center Director Stephen Dark says they saw a need three months ago and started serving dinner every night.

When school is out, the safe haven they provide becomes that much more important.

"You can make sure they get at least one meal today. If the schools aren't open and we're open, we're going to make sure they get something nutritious, whether it's fruit or vegetable soup or a hot cooked meal," says Dark.

The Food Bank plans to double up those weekend sacks as they are able to the rest of the winter.

The East Lake Community Center begins serving dinner around 5:30.

It's free and open to anyone who walks in.

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