It was a warm afternoon in Dogwood Terrace on Thursday with school out, not much to do and three kids to feed.
Tykeshia Williams didn’t want her kids sitting at home watching TV. And in the kitchen, the pantry was empty.
She tied three pairs of sneakers and walked her children to the Dogwood Terrace Community Center, where milk cartons, turkey sandwiches and crackers were waiting for them.
While school is in session, the Richmond County School System provides thousands of children with free or reduced-price lunch and free breakfast through the state-funded nutrition department. During the summer, the district offers an alternative so families that depend on the assistance aren’t left without options.
“It really helps in the summer,” Williams said. “During the school year, my fridge stays full. Now, during the summer, you should see it. They eat me out of house and home, so this helps
The school system will provide free breakfast and lunch to children at 55 sites across the district. The Summer Food Service Program, funded by the Georgia Department of Early Child Care and Learning’s Bright From the Start, is free to all 18 and younger.
“First of all the economy is bad ... so this will help with the parents’ grocery bills,” said Josephine Mack, the school system’s nutrition director. “We have to provide for our children. This is to replace those meals that many students are used to during school time.”
Last summer, the system provided 4,000 total breakfasts and lunches per day through the program, Mack said. During the 2011-12 school year, the district served roughly 40,000 meals per day.
Several other agencies provide funding for feeding programs in Georgia. Lou Brienza, director of nutrition services for Bright from the Start, said Richmond County is one of the few school systems among the more than 100 agencies Bright from the Start reimburses for feeding programs.
Many school systems’ feeding programs are funded by the Georgia Department of Education, but however they are funded, Brienza said, summer food programs are vital for communities.
“This program is there to provide during that missing period of time,” he said.