STERLING – Both Whiteside and Lee County United Way’s summer lunch programs served fewer children this year.
United Way of Whiteside County served 30,169 meals through its Let’s Feed Our Children summer lunch program, which wrapped up its 17th year on Aug. 17.
More than 300 volunteers prepared lunches for 13 weeks in Sterling, Rock Falls, Morrison, Prophetstown, Tampico, Fulton, Erie, Lyndon, Albany, Chadwick and Milledgeville, Pam Martinez, director of programs and services, said in a news release.
Last year, the number of meals served totaled 31,665.
The Morrison site reduced its serving days from 5 days a week to 3, and some large families moved out of the area, Martinez said.
“School enrollment in Rock Falls is down, so I’m assuming families have moved out of there as well.”
United Way of Lee County served 482 meals over 12 weeks, from mid-May to Aug. 17, in its Serving Up Summer program.
Last year was the program’s first; it served 696 meals over 28 days, at Wooden Wonderland and Vaile Park, both in Dixon.
Attendance was low at Vaile, though, and so this year meals were served only at Wooden Wonderland, which might help explain the drop in numbers, Executive Director Keri Olson said. A free bus ride to the site from Lincoln School and Haymarket Square was provided.
Also, her program is funded by a grant that restricts the kinds of food that can be served.
“A standard lunch would be a turkey sandwich, baby carrots, an orange, and milk,” Olson said.
Children could give up items they didn’t want to eat so others could have them. The turkey sandwiches were most often set aside, while the baby carrots were the most popular, she said.
The United Way will discuss how to improve next summer’s turnout at a Chamber of Commerce Lunch and Learn session at noon Oct. 17 at the Post House Community Center, 100 W. Second St.
The public can post suggestions for expanding the service on its Facebook page or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.