Dillon Hoover chowed down on a sandwich, apple, carrots and a fruit snack at Immanuel United Church of Christ.
The 12-year-old was one of 10 children — including his sister, Stormy, and his brother, Seth — who gathered at the church Tuesday for a meal and some activities for the first day of the church’s summer lunch program.
“The people are nice, and they make good food,” said Dillon, who also participated in the free lunch program last year.
The program is in its third year, and expanded to include Taylor Chapel United Methodist Church, 400 N. Lamine Ave. as a satellite site, where children can pick up bag lunches two days a week.
Carolyn Barbour, who helped organize the program at Immanuel, 418 W. Fourth St., said it will offer lunch five days per week through Aug. 15.
The program at Immanuel will offer games, activities and health and wellness events, she said, although no one is obligated to stay.
“Some kids like to come at 11 (a.m.) and stay until 1 (p.m.); some of them come and eat and then leave,” she said.
The churches put on the program in partnership with Open Door Food Pantry and the Central Missouri Food Bank.
Barbour said this year the group hopes to expand the reach of the program. Last year the program served about 30 children per day.
“Right now, as many as we can serve, we’re thankful,” she said. The program is open to all children up to 17 years old, regardless of income.
Jack Menges, executive director of Open Door, said he expected increased participation this year because he has seen increased need in the community and because the program has been in place for a few years.
“It’s really the only thing in the summer. A lot of kids get free and reduced price lunches in school, and in summer ... this is really the only thing to fill that gap,” he said.
Carol Pritchard, who coordinated the program at Taylor Chapel, said the church got involved to help serve the community.
“We’re always looking for ways to reach out,” she said.
She said church members handed out fliers to help get the word out about the pick-up point.
Volunteers at Taylor will hand out lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but volunteer Elaine Ray said the program could expand if there is response from the community.
“If it goes really well, we might expand it to more days,” Ray said.
After lunch, Dillon said he and his siblings usually stay at Immanuel for a while. Tuesday they had big decisions to make over lunch: whether to head to the playground or to the park.