no avatar

The Lunch Box Program feeds body and soul

Cindy Harmon • Jul 16, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Some kids dread the sight of school buses, but not The Lunch Box buses.

These retired school buses are retro-fitted with tables and seats and staffed by volunteers who serve up fresh, wholesome lunches to children and teens in Hawkins County. The certified USDA summer lunch program began in Rogersville in 2006 when Of One Accord Ministry members realized there was a need. It has since expanded to serve Church Hill and Mount Carmel.

The idea of using buses was the brainchild of Cathy Doerr, a grant writer for the ministry.

"In Hawkins County, 50 percent of our kids are on free or reduced meal programs through the school year and, without this program, many of them would go without lunch in the summer months," said Kayla Williams, summer food service administrator. "The bus can go where the kids are and that is the key to feeding the ones who need it the most, we bring the food to them."

Volunteers are what make the community-based cafeteria on wheels run, literally.

Twenty to 25 volunteers prepare between 180 and 240 meals at the First Freewill Baptist Church, three days a week to serve in Church Hill and Mount Carmel. Others load up and staff the bus, a trained volunteer drives it to one of their seven bus sites, where they park and feed kids wanting or needing lunch. Last year, 3,454 meals were served in Church Hill/Mount Carmel and 4,060 in Rogersville.

"Words cannot express what our volunteers mean to me," said Williams, who started volunteering for the program when she was in high school. "They are the heart of this program. Without them, the Church Hill Lunch Box would not exist. I know God is going to richly bless them for all they do. We have some special young people that are waking up early to get involved in their community. They are taking time out of their summer and doing this for the sheer joy of helping kids in need."

The state reimburses The Lunch Box $3.38 for each meal served and no one under the age of 18 is turned away. They do get grant money, but the majority of support comes through local churches, the cities of Church Hill and Mount Carmel and their community chests.

"Our program, along with Of One Accord, are Christian-based organizations," Williams said. "We try to feed the kids not only with food, but spiritually as well. We try to show them that the love of Jesus Christ will last their entire life and, if they rely on their faith, they will know that God is going to help them through, no matter what may come their way."

In only its fourth year, the Church Hill outreach is already having positive effects.

"We want parents to know we are here to help. We have numbers for food pantries and can direct them to agencies that give them extra assistance if they need it," the 20-year-old Carson-Newman junior said. "And we’re hoping to add another bus to reach the far western end of Hawkins County. We still have some kids we can’t get to yet."

If you can make a donation, lend a hand, or know of an available bus, contact www.ofoneaccordministry.org. Or, to help stop hunger in local communities, you can call 423-921-8036 for Rogersville or 423-863-2911 for Church Hill. 











Recommended for You