Rutherford County Schools has eight sites participating in the federally funded Summer Food Program this summer.
McFadden School of Excellence is one of those sites, serving lunch from 11 a.m.-12:30 at no cost to participants under 18 and $3.50 for adults.
Maggie Connor, cafeteria manager for the program site at McFadden, has helped conduct the program for the past seven summers. During the week, she prepares lunches following the menu guidelines set by the county schools' nutrition director. Daily, that menu includes two hot entrée choices as well as a cold sandwich and fruit/vegetable sides.
Connor is typically the only person at the site during the day, accepting deliveries and operating the program. On Monday, however, fellow MSE cafeteria employee Kathy Donnell — who uses the school's kitchen to provide meal services to the Boys & Girls Club just a couple of miles away — was also on hand to help take inventory, rotate stock and prepare lunch.
"I try to plan for 60-65 kids," she stated. "All of the children from the (McFadden) Community Center come every day… It doesn't vary that much, maybe by 10 or so." She added, "We do have some families from the community that come; there's no way to really know."
A daily witness of the Summer Feeding Program's effect on Murfreesboro youth, Steve Bingham — the summer program director at the McFadden Community Center — spoke highly of his experience at the site.
"It works out absolutely great for us because a lot of our kids come from low-income families … Participation (in the food program) is almost 100 percent," he said enthusiastically, adding, "It's had a great impact on our community."
With the number of participants fluctuating each day, it can be difficult to predict how much food to prepare.
"I guess, the biggest challenge is not knowing how many people (might) come," Connor said. "I mean, you always want to prepare for enough and not be short anything."
That challenge, however, does not dampen her passion for her work.
"I love working summers because you know you're feeding children that may not get a hot meal during the day if their parents are at work or the food's just not available. You don't have to worry about if anybody has money or not. We have been told that this is the only meal some of [the kids] will have [in a day], so it's nice to know that you're filling that gap."
The program will run until July 26, excluding July 4.
For information on the other summer food sites in Rutherford County, follow this link.
By KIRSTIN TAYLOR, Rutherford County Schools