For the past several years, the Chester Housing Authority has focused on encouraging residents to eat healthier - so to Executive Director Steven Fischer, it just made sense to begin a summer food program for the agency's low-income children during the summer. "Providing a summer food program for the kids is consistent with our philosophy of helping kids and adults eat properly throughout the year," Fischer said.
"When we learned that USDA made funds available for this kind of program we jumped at the opportunity."Free breakfast and lunch are available to all CHA residents age 18 and under Monday through Friday. All meals include milk and at least one serving of fruit or vegetables.In addition to providing the meals, the program has also created seven part-time jobs for CHA residents.Sharon Young, a Chester-Upland School District employee, is the program coordinator. She says the program is a very important initiative."If you get a good meal in the morning and at lunch you're not thinking about your stomach," Young says. "You're going to be paying attention and you're going to be able to do the work."Young says that holds true even in summer. Because she works at the Chester High School library, she has extra access to books so when the weather doesn't allow for outdoor play Young says the children will be reading books, working on puzzles and coloring to keep their minds occupied. For now, she says, through the first two weeks of the program everything is running smoothly and the kids are happy. CHA resident community health workers Deborah Montgomery, Tara Fontaine, and four additional CHA residents are running the program on a daily basis. Young, Montgomery and Fontaine all have long experience working with children, food, and health principles. Breakfast is served from 8:30 – 9:30 and lunch from 11:30 to 1:00. The meals are available at three CHA sites: Booker T. Washington Community Center, Ruth L. Bennett Community Center, and William Penn Community Center. Children from Enrichment Academy day care enjoyed lunch at the opening day of the Chester Housing Authority's first-ever summer food program. Program coordinator Sharon Young (right) and Enrichment Academy day care teacher Khadesha Thomas said everything went smoothly at both breakfast and lunch on day one. Sharon Young gets help from Terry Ward and program participant Le-Brea Young in the kitchen. All meals in the summer food program are prepared fresh.