Under the shady trees next to the Kiwanis Pavilion at Hope Fair Park, one can find a small gathering taking place each day around lunch time. Local youth are able to receive lunch from one of the Hope Public Schools (HPS) mobile meal sites, part of the HPS Summer Meal Program provided by the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) and the USDA. Any child under the age of 18, regardless of school district, can receive one of these lunches containing sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and more.
HPS Nutrition Director Deanna Gilbert said the summer meal program is a vital resource for the community. “Even though it is summer, we still want to make sure kids are able to receive a good, nutritious meal each day,” Gilbert said. “This is also a great help to parents because of the rising cost in groceries. Whether school is in session or it’s summertime, we want to do everything we can to care for the families in our community.” Gilbert said this whole endeavor is made possible by the wonderful ladies who make the lunches and work at the sites each day. She says they work diligently to provide these meals to local youth.
Passersby might see a trail of kids leaving the park for those who decide to grab and go, or some might see small groups sitting together for a meal and enjoying park amenities. Either way, the meal is free, and all children are welcome. The site at Hope Fair Park is just one of two sites HPS sets up each day. The other is at Calvary Baptist Church.
The HPS Summer Meal Program will last through July. Any child under 18 can receive a lunch Monday through Friday at the Hope Fair Park site from 11:30am to 12:30pm or the Calvary site from 12:45pm to 1:15pm.