In the tiny community of Greengrass on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, there will soon be dozens of children out of school who won’t be receiving the free breakfasts and lunches they did when classes were in session.
Thanks to our partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we are able to provide support for the operation of five feeding sites on the reservation, including Greengrass – our newest site. The USDA funds meals through the Summer Food Service Program.
For 50 days from June 4 to August 10, any child who shows up at the Greengrass Community Building, the nutrition center at Cherry Creek, the Red Scaffold Catholic Church, the community building at Swift Bird or the Boys & Girls Club in LaPlante on weekdays between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. will receive a free lunch.
The Cheyenne River reservation is located in a county with some of the highest rates of Native child poverty in the nation and several years ago Cheyenne River teachers informed us that many of their students returned to school in the fall lethargic and malnourished. Ever since, the Summer Youth Feeding Program has been providing meals to children during the summer months.
Each summer Running Strong contracts to hire a director to oversee the operations at the five feeding sites and to make sure all government requirements are met, ensuring a smooth-running, efficient operation.
Stacie Lee, who oversees the program for Running Strong, began providing summer lunches for kids on the reservation in 2001. In recent years, the program has served more than 5,000 meals each summer.
“It’s a successful program,” she says. “Every year we have more students.”
Dylan, a cook at the Boys & Girls Club, reports that he enjoys the opportunity to serve the children with filling, nutritious lunches – especially in the knowledge for many it will be their only substantial meal of the day.
“The kids from LaPlante really enjoyed having the free meals to eat,” Dylan reported following the end of the 2017 summer food program. “Parents are always thankful for the meals and tell me much how much it helps them save on buying food for lunch meals, cooking and cleaning.
“Thank you very much, and we hope we can serve the kids the free meals again in the summer of 2018.”