Celebration spreads word about free summer meals for children - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Celebration spreads word about free summer meals for children


Friday was the last day of school for the Ocean Springs School District. That means all coast students are now on summer break. 

Several groups gathered in Biloxi Friday to spread the message about a free summer food program. Those groups are worried too many children are going hungry when they're out of school. They want families to know there's free food available and they're not just being served in school cafeterias.

Point Cadet Plaza was bursting with the sounds of summer, children playing, dancing, and cooling off.

"I think it's great! You get free food and there's things for kids and everything like that," said ten-year-old Phoenix Green.

Free food was the focus of the celebration. The city of Biloxi and several groups came together to launch the 2015 Summer Food Service Program.

"It's a federally-funded program. It takes place across the country and across the state of Mississippi, yet, we here in Mississippi have a pretty low participation rate in this program has a whole. We're trying to raise awareness," said Cecilia Snyder, Bay Area Food Bank Child Nutrition Coordinator.

More than 350-little ones from day cares and summer camps joined in the fun. Many of them already participate in the food program.

"I am very fortunate to have this food at no cost to me. The Bay Area Food Bank is very great in providing the food," said Shannon Hughes, Owner of Little Starters University and Preschool in Gautier.

The Food Bank said hunger tends to spike during the summer, and 26-percent of South Mississippi children don't know where their next meal is coming from on a daily basis.

"It's definitely a serious problem that people might take for granted or might not realize it's here in our own community. The great thing about this program it is it's not just for daycares and summer camps. There are plenty of churches and schools who open up their doors to anyone in the community and say, 'Come have a free summer lunch, anyone under 18,'" said Snyder.

The program will feed more than 3,500-South Mississippi children this summer.

"Some families don't have the money to go buy food, so they provide lunches for you. It's good," said Phoenix.

"They want us to have less junk food and more healthy food," said Hannah Silkwood.

When asked what she'll be doing this summer, Hannah replied, "I'm going to eat healthy and exercise.

The Summer Food Service Program serves an average of 80,000 breakfast meals, 80,000 snacks, and 15,000 lunches. The program wraps-up at the end of July.

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