Despite the Athens Housing Authority’s decision to end its sponsorship of the Summer Student Service Program, parents and students in the Clarke County School District, grades K-12, can rest assured that low-income students will still receive their meals over the summer.
CCSD will take over the responsibilities of providing free lunches to CCSD students throughout the summer. CCSD has worked with the Athens Housing Authority for 28 years, with CCSD serving as the vendor and AHA as a sponsor of the program.
Marilyn Appleby, AHA marketing and communications director, said AHA needed to look at some of the issues they wanted to work on and how much personnel it was going to take.
“We have been doing the program for almost 30 years, and it takes an enormous amount of time and personnel to work on this program,” Appleby said. “And it was coming to the time where we needed to look at how does it compare to what our mission is.”
Clarke County School Nutrition Program prepared the meals while AHA provided vans and drivers, allowing for them to come to the school, pick up the meals and deliver them out into the community at different sites, Paula Farmer, Clarke County School Nutrition director said.
Farmer said both programs, the formerly implemented Summer Student Service Program sponsored by AHA and the new program, Seamless Summer Option, sponsored by CCSD are under the USDA umbrella with the same mission of feeding children.
However, the way the programs are implemented looks a little different, such as different meal patterns and reimbursement rates.
CCSD will now be responsible for the delivery component, which they have not been in the past. Although CCSD partially delivered meals in the past program, this area of meal delivery wasn’t as extensive as AHA’s delivery service, Farmer said.
“I think [for] the school district, that is an area that they have dealt with during the school year,” Appleby said. “So I think that they’re just the logical and good choice to be working with the program in the community.”
According to a CCSD press release, “The Clarke County School District wants to assure the community that all children will have access to free lunch during the summer, as always.”
“The same guidelines that we follow, the same meal plans that we follow in the academic year, we just move that forward into summer,” Farmer said.
Appleby said AHA’s mission is to work on affordable housing, and they want to focus on it.
There were other factors in the up-keeping of the program that made it difficult to run and partly led to the end of AHA’s sponsorship, Appleby said. For example, there are some things that the Summer Student Service Program didn’t fund, such as criminal background checks for employees, including those who work with the youth and children. AHA had to put some of its own resources into funds to help the program, creating a larger financial burden for AHA.
Appleby said it’ll be a little bit of a change in the community, but it will be a change that still provides youth in the school system with access to food.
Farmer said the change should not impact families and CCSD will communicate updates to CCSD families, as well as the community.
“I think we’ll learn a lot this summer just through the process, and it’ll make us even better, so I anticipate next summer, we’ll feed even more children,” Farmer said.