Today’s post could be classified under the theme “Tell Me Something Good.”  I’m very sorry if you are unable to get the Rufus & Chaka Khan tune out of your head for the rest of the day.  If you don’t know the song, don’t worry about it.  It’s not that important. 

For the second year, the Broken Arrow church provided a summer program called 50 Days of Food and Fun for children in our immediate community.  The title of the program very accurately describes its scope.  It runs for 50 days during the summer months, 5 days a week for 10 weeks.  The program is divided into two major efforts, the Summer Food Service Program and the Summer Enrichment Program.  Basically, we feed children and teach children for 50 days. 

The Summer Food Service Program was established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1968 to address issues of proper nutrition for children during the months when school is not in session.  Of greatest concern were children from low-income families who received free breakfast and lunch during the school year.  How well would they eat during the summer?  That question is especially relevant for the Broken Arrow church and hits very close to home since about 65% of the students who attend the elementary school across the street from our facilities receive free or reduced cost meals at school.

During 50 Days of Food and Fun, any child age 18 or younger can come to our Outreach Center (multi-purpose building with a commercial kitchen) and receive a free, hot, nutritious breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.  Kitchen crews rotate throughout the week, and a licensed kitchen manager has to be on site at all times.  A total of 8,793 meals were served this summer!  Additionally, we partnered with the local Food Bank so that the neediest children in the program received food packages on Fridays to assist their families over the weekend.  A bonus blessing is that the cost of the food is fully reimbursed by the USDA as long as we meet their nutritional, administrative, and record-keeping requirements.  This is one area where I am definitely proud of how my tax dollars are being spent. 

What happens between breakfast and lunch?  That’s where the Summer Enrichment Program comes in.  It is open for children in Kindergarten through 5th Grade.  The children receive daily instruction in Bible, math, reading, character, and citizenship.  They have access to a wonderful children’s library and enjoy special learning activities through science, art, music, nature, and physical education.  Again, a big concern for young school children is learning loss during the summer.  On average, students lose 2.6 months of grade level equivalency skills over the summer months, along with regression in factual and procedural knowledge.  Losses are typically greater in children from low-income families who have less financial resources to take advantage of summer learning activities. 

This summer, we had 180 students from 123 different families registered in the Enrichment Program.  33 of those children attended our Vacation Bible School for the first time this year. 

In all, it took 182 volunteers from the congregation to make 50 Days a reality, including the vital efforts of Colleen Detherage (Administrator & Site Monitor), Julie Parette (Site Supervisor & Food Production Manager), and Melissa Gillin (Enrichment & Curriculum Supervisor).  We also had 16 additional volunteers from outside the church and participation from the local police and fire departments, the county library, Rhoades Elementary administrators and coaches, Shriners, and Safari’s Wildlife. 

There’s an old saying: “What a difference a day makes!”  I’m grateful that we had another chance to make a difference for 50 days; not just a difference in academics and nutrition, but the opportunity to share stories and truths from Scripture and to plant seeds of faith in young hearts and lives.