Summer is in full swing, and for most young people that means a long break from the classroom and weeks filled with sunshine, swimming, summer camps and family vacations.
But for some children, summer means too many days when they don't have enough to eat due to the absence of school lunch programs.
In Nodaway County, the challenge of filling that summer nutrition gap has been taken up by the Maryville Ministry Center's Brown Bag program, which provides packages of easily prepared food for consumption by children from low-income families whose parents visit the Ministry Center pantry, located at 971 S. Main.
In order to receive Brown Bag foodstuffs, children must be eligible for the free and reduced-price meal program in their school district. According to Dave Weichinger of Community Services Inc., a regional non-profit social services agency, 48 percent of school-age children in Nodaway County qualify.
Typical Brown Bag items include include hot dogs, cheese slices, canned carrots, peanut butter, jelly, macaroni-and-cheese, pudding and jello cups, fruit, bread and milk vouchers.
The food is distributed in addition to the normal allotment of groceries the center provides to families in need.
Like all programs provided by the volunteer-run center, the Brown Bag initiative is funded with donations from local residents and organizations.
Two local groups recently held food drives specifically in support of the Brown Bag program. The first was organized by teenagers attending this summer's Upward Bound session at Northwest Missouri State University.
The high school students distributed lists of needed food items to homes located near the university and requested residents to bag up in-kind donations and place them on their doorsteps for collection the following week.
Students then picked up the bags and delivered them to the center.
The second effort involved recent graduates of Community Services' Step Up to Leadership class.
A 12-week seminar, Step Up to Leadership offers classroom and hands-on training designed to prepare lower-income individuals to assume positions of responsibility in charitable and civic organizations.
Step Up alumni Deborah Frogge and Julie Marez chose Brown Bag as their class project and handed out lists of needed items to shoppers as they entered Walmart and Hy-Vee.
Shoppers then bought the food and deposited it in donation boxes as they left the store.