- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — Summer vacation isn’t a carefree time for all children, especially those who depend on the federal government’s free lunch program during the school year.

Fay Lohr, chief executive director of the Central Virginia Food Bank, sees this firsthand, and workers at her organization hustle to meet the needs of children when school is out.

“Summertime is challenging because kids are out of school and they don’t have the advantage of free lunches,” Miss Lohr said. “We know kids are hungry no matter what time of the year it is.”

Coping with that increased need is difficult because food donations lag during the summer. The group’s most challenging months are July, August and September, when it’s difficult to keep the warehouse full, said food resource manager Edna Rodwell.

So, Miss Rodwell, who is in charge of keeping the food bank’s warehouse stocked, has to rely on donated food from grocery stores and food drives.

“The food that comes in here goes out really fast,” Miss Lohr said.

The food bank is a partner with America’s Second Harvest — a national hunger-relief group that helps supply donated food.

Last year, the Central Virginia Food Bank collected and distributed more than 10.4 million pounds of food, and half of that went to feed children, Miss Lohr said. As quickly as shelves and refrigerators fill up, officials from soup kitchens and shelters in 37 localities snap up the 16-cents-per-pound food to feed the hungry in their communities.

Although some foods are abundant at the 60,000-square-foot warehouse, others are missing.

“What we need are sources of protein like peanut butter and tuna,” Miss Lohr said. “We need things that are not at the end of their shelf life.”

Besides collecting, warehousing and distributing food, the organization’s Community Kitchen prepares more than 2,000 meals daily for 15 Kids Cafes in financially disadvantaged areas of Richmond, Petersburg and Henrico County.

About 60 children at a Richmond housing development ate recently at one of the cafes, giggling with friends as they drank milk and munched on smoked sausages and baked beans.

Brenda Hunter, assistant supervisor of the Community Kitchen, helped prepare that meal. She wants to make sure hunger doesn’t ruin a child’s summer vacation.

“When I go home at the end of the day, I know that there are kids being served nutritious meals,” Miss Hunter said. “That gives me joy.”

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