Andrew Dys

‘A lot more than lunch’: Chester summer program feeds 2,000 kids, shows them love

The kids at Jones Adair Park ran and played Friday, and – like they did every weekday for the past 10 weeks – they ate. But this Friday was a little different than the regular summer lunch feeding program, sponsored by the city of Chester and the federal Summer Food Service Program.

The food was hot dogs, hamburgers and more, served up by the woman who served them lunch all summer.

At the end of the summer every year, Corliss Chisholm puts on a fun day, a party for all the kids. She brings in firefighters and their trucks, cops and politicians, music and dancing, musical chairs and more.

“These kids, they are so precious, we do this every year to get them ready to start school with one more push,” said Chisholm, whose regular job is working in the cafeteria at Chester Middle School. She and her helpers cook the fun-day food, run the games, bring out the smiles and the joy.

The program served more than 2,000 Chester County children at 71 sites this summer, director Peggy Johnson said. Started across America in 1968 as a federal program to make sure low-income children had summer meals, more than 200 million lunches of sandwiches, fruit, milk and juice were served around the country this summer. Tens of thousands of those meals were served in Chester County to children under 18 who showed up five days a week.

“A nutritious lunch is crucial, and we are trying to get to all the areas where children are,” Johnson said. “We are so grateful to all the people and businesses who partnered with us, helped us.

“We are helping kids – that’s what matters most.”

Many area businesses and individuals partnered with the program to make sure kids were able to eat – from politicians such as Chester City Councilman Carlos Williams to firefighters to Sheriff Alex Underwood and more. For many kids, the program provides a place to meet others, to make sure that they have something to eat in the program run by adults who are hired as temporary part-time workers in the summer outreach to the kids.

“It’s a lot more than lunch,” said Abbey Wilson, who supervises several locations around the county. “It’s caring for children. The kids want to come and see each other, play and eat.”

At Friday’s fun day at Jones Adair Park, the kids had all the food they could eat and all the fun they could stomach.

“It was fun to come here this summer,” 12-year-old Janadia Lightner said.

The program ends next week, as school gets ready to start again.

Next summer, Corliss Chisholm will have her feeding spot and group of children again. She’s done it for more than 10 years with no plan to stop.

“These kids,” she said, “I do this fun day to show them that I, and all of us, appreciate them and want them to succeed.”

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