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Free lunches for a good cause

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)--Whoever said there's no such thing as a free lunch hasn't visited the old Walker County High School this summer. Every Wednesday since early June, children from around the county have flocked there to learn, socialize, and eat a meal.

It's the second year for the program, and it's courtesy of a partnership between Primary Healthcare Centers of northwest Georgia and the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.

"The food bank delivers the food every morning and then we have our teen advocates here that go out and help bring the food in," explained Janice Pardue, director of the Walker County Teen Resource Center, the group which administers the program.

The lunches are free of charge thanks to a grant from the food bank.

Dozens of center volunteers take lunches to pick-up sites around the county, but many families go to the old high school so the children experience more interaction. Deborah Sprayberry believes it's better for her nine year old daughter, Emma.

"I'm glad that she gets to see one of her friends from school, because she doesn't see them very much during the summer," said Sprayberry. "We don't live close to anyone that goes to school with her."

Jennifer Ownby, mother of five, also says it's important to bring her children here to help break up the monotony summer often brings.

"They like coming up here and seeing their friends. They like doing the crafts. They like the food. It just gives them something to do," said Ownby.

What's nine year old Emma's favorite thing about the program? "That we get to do crafts here," Emma said.

For 10 year old Gwen Ownby it's also about what she gets to take home. "They gave us Play-Do last time and they gave us an exercise box," said Gwen. "They gave us a CD in it."

Pardue also hopes the kids take home life skills each week, many of which are taught by people from Primary Healthcare. Lessons about nutrition, behavior, and money are among the topics they may not learn about in the classroom. Next summer's program, though, is not a sure thing.

"It's a year-to-year thing for us," explained Pardue. She hopes the Chattanooga Area Food Bank will be able to provide another grant.

Last summer the program gave around 10,000 lunches to children in Walker County. During the first month this summer, June 6th through June 30th, more than 3,600 were doled out.

The last Wednesday for this summer's schedule is August 16th. If you want your children to join in the food and fun, call the Walker County Teen Resource Center at 706-858-6965.

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