In a few short weeks, classes will end for the summer break on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation and hundreds of children will not be receiving the nutritious and filling breakfasts and lunches they get each weekday when school in is session.
That’s why Running Strong for American Indian Youth® supports the Summer Youth Feeding Program on the reservation, in partnership with the USDA, providing more than 5,200 lunches to more than 250 kids and teens ages 1 to 18 each weekday from early June to mid-August.
“If some of these kids didn’t get this meal, I know they would be going without." -Megan, one of the SFSP cooks last year.
Megan added that she is glad to have the summer employment “and also to see the little kids smiling and being fed.”
Above: Red Scaffold, one of the rural communities where kids receive summer meals
How it all began
The program first took shape when a teacher on the reservation informed Running Strong staff that many of their students were returning to school after their summer vacation feeling lethargic and having lost weight.
In the course of a year, we developed the program. Now, every summer we feed children five days a week a several community centers across the Cheyenne River reservation.
All kids have to do is show up, and we provide them with free healthy meals, including milk and fresh fruit.
This year’s plan
This year, Running Strong has already contracted to provide thousands of meals at four locations throughout the reservation – the Cherry Creek and Swift Bird community centers, Red Scaffold Catholic Church and the LaPlante Boys & Girls Club.
The locations are known as “open sites” meaning that any child or teen can simply show up for a free meal – no questions asked. It doesn’t matter if they are a resident of the reservation or just visiting, no hungry child is ever turned away from a Running Strong feeding site.
For 2016, Running Strong is budgeting $5,750 towards the expenses of operating the program including purchasing food and paying salaries for cooks.
Food service manager Stacie Lee tells us that they receive no other funding from other sources to operate the summer food program on the reservation. That means, without support from Running Strong the program would cease to exist.
“This program is very much needed,” says Cheryl, a cook in the program. “If this program did not take place a lot of students/kids would have went without food.”