Over 65,000 meals were distributed in Summer Food Program

Friday, August 14, 2020
Lynn Feeler, a volunteer for the Summer Food Program, helps bag lunches to be distributed Thursday afternoon.
Alex Wallner/Standard Democrat

SIKESTON — As the COVID-19 pandemic took over early this spring, students were kept out of school, keeping some students from access to good, healthy meals. But one local group stepped up and started the Summer Food Program.

John McHaffie, pastor at Sikeston First Assembly of God, was concerned about the students affected by the pandemic and began to research possibilities and found a USDA summer food program through a church in High Ridge, Missouri, that was having success with food programs.

“We were able to come under their program which allowed us to begin the Summer Food Program quickly and efficiently,” McHaffie said. “My wife, Susan McHaffie who is now the Summer Food program director, Terry Daily, a church board member and myself went to New Hope Fellowship early in May to look at their program. We all fell in love with the idea and their approach to feed children. Two weeks later we were up and running.”

The program ran for 13 weeks with five different distribution points: two in Sikeston and one each in New Madrid, Haywood City and Morley. Over 4,800 kids were helped and over 65,000 meals were distributed. On Thursday the last of the meals was distributed.

The program was a Summer Food USDA program and they were reimbursed for each of the meals.

“The USDA allows us to bring a message of hope by giving seven quality breakfasts, seven quality lunches and a gallon of milk to anyone under the age of 18,” McHaffie said. “The USDA ensures that each breakfast and lunch have regulated portions and quality food.”

McHaffie said he heard over and over how needed the program was and that they were able to give hope to people.

“We have given lots of smiles as well as seen many tears as we were able to bring food to anyone who stopped by,” McHaffie said. “This program was not based on income status but based by the need regionally. Our school district is 100 percent free lunches which allows for us to give to anyone in our school district.”

Rachel Gates, a Sikeston resident and teacher at Scott County Central, said it was a privilege for her and her family to serve the community where they live as well as the district where she works.

“Being able to continue to see so many of the children that make up my work family, throughout these trying times and knowing that they continued to know how loved and valued they are to us made everyday worth it,” Gates said.

“I think this program is a great resource for students in the area,” said Makenzie Pullen, 17. “Helping with this program has allowed me help those in need during such a scary time in the safest way possible.”

Susan McHaffie, program director, said that one way or another, COVID-19 has impacted everyone and that she has been blessed to be a part of a program that meets the need of feeding kids in the community but has allowed her to meet new people as well.

“What a joy it has been to see all of your now familiar faces that have brought a smile to my heart from week to week,” Susan McHaffie said. “It has been an amazing summer of blessings.”

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