by Lisa Tome
After six months of working and waiting, nearly 190 Cecil County children get free dinner every day.
The members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cecil County units in Elkton, North East, and Charlestown now eat the free meal each night at the clubs.
"They love them and they eat them. There was definitely a need for it," said Brittany Dotson, Unit Director of the Boys & Girls Club's Elkton Unit.
Last summer, Boys & Girls Clubs Executive Director Mary Jo Jablonski began working to provide meals for the club members by way of a program provided through Maryland Hunger Solutions in cooperation with Cecil County Public Schools.
According to Kimberly Anders, Director of Operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs, the program started February 10. The clubs qualified for the free meals since the schools they attend are Title I, meaning that a high percentage of students receive free or reduced school meals. The Rising Sun Boys & Girls Club unit does not meet these qualifications.
Each day, club staff pick up the pre-packaged meals at local schools. Each meal includes milk, fruit, vegetable, grains, and meat.
At the Elkton club, Dotson has established a "share table". Those who do not want an item can pass it on to someone else. "We reuse the stuff until it expires. There is not a lot of waste," said Dotson.
Anders said that providing the meals eliminates the need for the clubs to have a snack. Snacks were donation dependent, and were only available if a business or individual provided it.
"It's something we don't have to worry about anymore. We know we will have this everyday," said Anders. She also said that they are looking into options for providing meals during the summer months.
"We were so excited to get this. It's a lot of paperwork and we had a week's notice to train everyone and implement the program," said Anders.
The meals come in disposable boxes. Dotson said she will use that as a learning tool. Those who attend the Elkton club will start a recycling program. "Our trash cans are overflowing. This gives us another opportunity to learn," said Dotson.