York County’s summer lunch site provides more than just food

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comJuly 23, 2013 

On Tuesday afternoon, several children ran around a picnic table in the Shadow Lane mobile home community in Rock Hill. A few mothers stood in the shade of a tree and watched as they gathered around one woman, who talked in a loud, cheerful voice.

Dona Edmonds works for the Summer Feeding Program, a project that provides free lunches to thousands of children in York and Chester counties when school isn’t in session.

But Edmonds doesn’t just pass out the lunches when they’re delivered, she makes it an event – organizing educational crafts and activities to keep the children entertained and mentally engaged.

“I love children,” Edmonds said. “I’ve worked with children for years and my pet peeve (is that) I hate to see an underdeveloped (child) or a child who just didn’t get the attention.

“So working with parents and programs, it makes a big difference.”

Alicia Sutton, the Rock Hill area coordinator for the Summer Feeding Program, said workers in the program were asked to incorporate activities into the distribution sites – coloring or word searches – while waiting for the food to arrive or after eating.

This keeps the kids coming back for the nutritious lunches, she said.

“It entices them to want to come back every day to eat the meals and to interact with (Edmonds) as well,” Sutton said.

Julia Morris is 4. Her mother, Anna Morris, brings Julia and her older brother, Alan, out to participate a few days a week. She proudly held up a dentist puppet she’d made and a paper pizza.

“I just want to,” she said, when asked why she liked to do the crafts after lunch.

Alan pointed out his drawings of different kinds of food on a large piece of paper on the picnic table.

“It’s been a good thing though,” their mom said, “because it entertains them for a little while and they eat and get to do crafts and hang out.”

Edmonds also has been reusing lunch items to make some of the crafts.

“We recycle,” she said. “Their fish were made from the cartons the lunches came in.”

Hayleigh Hoffman, 7, held up an “aquarium” – a cardboard box cut out to look like a fish tank. Cut-out fish colored with markers hung from strings stuck to the top of the box so it looked like they were swimming.

Edmonds also used empty milk cartons from the lunches as planters, so the children could plant lima bean seeds.

Hayleigh’s sister, Hannah, 3, held up one of the plants proudly.

“We just do art,” Hannah said. “We just do that.”

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Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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