Right now, through August 6, hundreds of children are receiving free “grab-‘n-go” breakfasts and lunches at three locations scattered out on the vast and remote Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota through our Summer Youth Feeding Program.
Thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, for 53 weekdays between the hours of 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Cheyenne River children will receive two healthy, filling meals that they most likely would not be receiving at home.
This year, as last year, Running Strong applied for waivers to the South Dakota Department of Education to allow for “non-congregate feeding,” meal service times which allow multiple meals to be served at one time and multiple days of meals distributed at once, as well as allowing for parents or guardians to pick up meals for the children.
“Students will have a nutritious meal to eat without going hungry, and if parents are allowed to pick up the meal that make it easier as some children are too young to come out and get a meal on their own,” noted Running Strong food service director Stacie Lee. A typical breakfast this year would contain cereal, fresh fruit, juice, and milk, while lunch includes a turkey, roast beef, or ham sandwich, vegetables such as carrots or celery, chips, fresh fruit like a banana, applesauce, and milk.
In applying for the waivers, Stacie told the SDDoE: “As you may know, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Tribal communities hard, including our community on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. Our Tribal government put COVID safety protocols in place to help contain its spread.
“Due to these COVID safety protocols, we cannot feed our children cafeteria-style and so these flexibilities will help us feed more hungry children safely.”
At the three locations, we are projecting serving 100 breakfasts and lunches each day at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Red Scaffold, 150 breakfasts and lunches each day at the Boys & Girls Club in La Plant, and 200 breakfasts and lunches at a Nutrition Feeding Site at Cherry Creek – to total of 11,925 meals throughout the summer. The cost to provide each meal averages $2.46 per breakfast, $4.31 per lunch, and $1.02 per snack.
Having overseen our Summer Youth Feeding Program for years, Stacie knows firsthand the great need for providing meals to children on the impoverished reservation.
“There are no other feeding sites in the area,” she explained, “with two being 88 miles apart, and the other 23 miles apart in a community with limited transportation options.”
According to a 2021 report by 24/7 Wall St., of “The Worst Counties To Live In”, based on poverty rates and life expectancy at birth, “Ziebach County (where Cherry Creek and Red Scaffold are located), is one of the poorest places in the United States. Nearly 43 percent of the local population live below the poverty line, the seventh largest share of all U.S. counties and county equivalents.”
And Dewey County, where the Boys & Girls Club feeding site is located, does not fare much better, with a population of roughly 200 – a third living below the poverty rate, according to the report.
“For a variety of historical and contemporary reasons, Native American populations are among the most disadvantaged groups in the United States,” the report states.
But thanks to the supporters of Running Strong for American Indian Youth®, this summer, and for many summers previously, we have been able to ensure that hundreds of Cheyenne River children don’t go hungry during school break, while relieving their parents of the burden and worry of how they would be able to keep meals on the table for their young daughters and sons.
And as Stacie reported following the conclusion of last year’s program, “All communities expressed their appreciation for the Running Strong Summer Youth Feeding Program as they know that without Running Strong a lot of the children would be going without a breakfast and lunch.
“I would like to thank the communities for participating in the program…and for Running Strong for making all this happen for the children on Cheyenne River.”
“I am a parent of six grandchildren. I just want to say thank you for the program. My grandchildren got sack lunches every day on Monday through Friday this summer. This summer we got breakfast sacks too, which was really nice. I just want to say we appreciate all you do to feed our kids. Hope it goes on next year because a lot of families depended on your program.”
– A grateful grandparent from Cherry Creek
“A big shout out to the Running Strong Summer Youth Feeding Program. Thank you for providing a balanced meal during this pandemic. We are truly grateful for everything.”
– Thank you, the La Plant community