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Expensive Summer | Lunch program helps struggling families feed kids

The Delgodo family leaves with lunch and breakfast food that will last them about a week. The food was an unexpected gift from a stranger, after they learned they didn
The Delgodo family leaves with lunch and breakfast food that will last them about a week. The food was an unexpected gift from a stranger, after they learned they didn't live in the right service area to qualify for the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank's summer lunch program.
— image credit: CELESTE GRACEY, Issaquah Reporter

The six Delgodo children stood with their mother beneath the pop-up tent at the Issaquah summer lunch program asking for food, but the volunteers had to turn them away.

The family had moved out of the Issaquah School District, which marks the Issaquah Food and Clothing Banks service area.

Downcast and empty handed, the children turned to leave, when Victoria Tranilla, who was picking up food for her 13 grandchildren, called out to them in Spanish.

Without hesitancy, she handed over her own bags of food, saying they needed it more than her grandchildren.

“Everybody has got to help, otherwise we’re headed for a disaster,” she said.

Since the new lunch program started last month, about 250 kids have come to rely on the weekly lunch bags for food, and that number is climbing, said Cori Kauk, the food bank director.

“It’s hard to afford food these days,” said Billie Williams, mother of one and a nanny for two.

With a husband out of work, her family is just trying to get by. During the school year, she takes advantage of the free and reduced lunch prices from the state to help feed her child.

But when the school year ends, so do the meals.

This is the case for about 150 of the kids signed up for the summer program in Issaquah.

For those families, summer can be expensive.

Williams’ family of three spends about $600 a month on food. The food bank helps with that cost, especially with rising food prices, she said.

Many parents use the food bank to offset some of their expenses so they can pay rent and utilities.

Each meal bag is supposed to help feed a kid lunch and breakfast for a week. This week it had fruit cups, granola bars, cereal, crackers and cans of tuna.

“All the things kids like,” Williams said with a smile.

Kauk, who has a background in recreation, decided to add a physical activity twist.

Each week the kids get some type of toy or activity that helps teach them about exercise.

This week it was chalk and ideas for how to make street games, such as hopscotch and race tracks.

Kids made cartoon characters and designed flags on the sidewalk, while their parents stood in line at the food bank.

Kauk hopes to raise enough money to buy the kids pedometers, so they can track their steps, she said.

Summer lunch programs are common, but Issaquah didn’t start one until this year when the Eastridge and Mary, Queen of Peace churches offered support.

Eastridge supplies many of the volunteers, and Mary’s donates food, Kauk said. “It just kind of fell together.”

For more information about the Issaquah Food Bank services or to learn how to help visit their website at issaquahfoodbank.org.

 

Melissa Mendez blows loose chalk off the sidewalk outside the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank. She's one of about 250 kids who participate in the food bank's weekly summer lunch program. Each week the food packs come with an activity for kids. BY CELESTE GRACEY, Issaquah Reporter

Elijah Staffen, left, and Alexander Valencia draw on the sidewalks with chalk and enjoy snacks from the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank's summer lunch program. CELESTE GRACEY, Issaquah Reporter

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