One of our newest summer feeding site partners for the Summer Food Service Program in Central Florida is the W.T. Bland Public Library located in rural Mt. Dora, FL. With a ton of fun reading programs for kids and a neat hang-out space for teens, the library is making strides in minimizing learning loss and youth hunger during the summer.
In support of the library’s efforts, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida sends a mobile trailer to serve hot meals every day. This means that the library employees complete less paperwork and save space for their reading programs. However, the limited space in the library also meant limited space for the kids to eat.
The library is packed with activities and programs all day long. Finding additional space for a place to eat within the library proved difficult, so we decided to host the meal space OUTSIDE of the library. W.T. Bland has a beautiful and shady outdoor area that accompanies an educational butterfly garden. The only missing element of this perfect space was having seating and tables for the area, like picnic tables.
Enter The Mission Continues: a post 9/11 veteran organization that strives to reintegrate veterans into their community through community service projects.In early 2016, the organization had approached the Second Harvest programs team to build shelving for school pantries. At the time, however, Second Harvest did not have a school pantry program.
Fast-forward to the present: We developed a school market program that needed shelving. When meeting with The Mission Continues to work out our partnership for the school market program, they decided to commit their platoon’s service projects for the next year to Second Harvest’s Childhood Hunger Programs.
Coincidentally, the beginning of the platoon’s service year aligned with the beginning of our Summer Food program. With the beginning of Summer Food rapidly approaching and set to begin on June 5th, we designated the first service project to take place on June 3rd. The project – dubbed Operation: Kid’s Table – was to build 5 picnic tables for the W.T. Bland Library to serve as an outdoor eating area.
At 9 am on June 3rd, approximately 35 veterans, families, and friends of the library arrived to begin building the tables. Fortunately, it was a gorgeous sunny morning in Central Florida and we started the build without a hitch.
The efficiency of The Mission Continues as an organization was evident in the actions of their veteran volunteers. Four of the five tables were built before 10 am, sanded and prepped for staining by 10:30 am, and well-stained by 11:30 am. A group even stayed through the afternoon to ensure that the tables could receive another coat of stain and be ready for meal service on Monday.
Our first week of meal service came and went and the seating space served as a perfect area for the kids to enjoy their lunch and the families to enjoy the outdoors. Second Harvest is grateful for The Mission Continues’ partnership and we look forward to continued support of our veterans and our communities.
Child Hunger Corps Fellow