Fighting Hunger: Attendance increased at summer breakfast camps
We were very fortunate to have three separate breakfast camps open this year from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, from June 18 to Aug. 24. The program started when school finished and before school started once again. This was open and free to any resident of the Whitehall-Coplay School District in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The camps were hosted by St. John’s Lutheran Church, 835 Third St., Fullerton; Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, 4331 Main St., Egypt; and Redeemed Christian Church of God, 5 N. Third St., Coplay.
We had three goals.
• To feed as many children as we could with our program. Each child was given a hot/cold breakfast, a bagged lunch and a weekend bag of food.
• To have the children read to alleviate the summer reading slide. If kids do not read two consecutive years over the summer, they fall back three years in reading ability in school.
• To have crafts, games and fun throughout the summer. This year’s theme was “Around the World,” which focused on a different country every week.
We hoped to increase the registered participation from last year by 25 percent — 58 to 73 students — by staying in Fullerton, but we decided to branch out into other areas that would open a facility for us in the school district. We added Egypt and Coplay, so we had three open sites this year. We increased the total registration to 102, including 16 youth volunteers who ate lunch. This was a 76-percent increase (58 to 102 students), which was substantially more than our goal — but the daily attendance was lower than we hoped. We have not figured out exactly why kids did not attend. However, more children did attend this year than in 2017.
The program was great, the children really enjoyed themselves, and we feel very successful since we served a total of 3,561 meals that these children may not have had otherwise.
Average daily attendance: 34*
Total breakfast (includes seconds): 962
Lunch bags: 857
Weekend bags: 174
Total meals: 1,993
Average daily attendance: 7
Total breakfast (includes seconds): 336
Lunch bags: 336
Weekend bags: 80
Total meals: 752
Average daily attendance: 12
Total breakfast (includes seconds): 345
Lunch bags: 391
Weekend bags: 80
Total meals: 816
Average daily attendance: 53
Total breakfast (includes seconds): 1,643
Lunch bags: 1,584
Weekend bags: 334
Total meals: 3,561
(*includes 16 youth volunteers who were fed)
We planned a marketing strategy to increase summer attendance. We decided to change the name to Whitehall-Coplay summer breakfast camp to attract more children. Whitehall has a paid summer camp called Camp Whitehall. We created banners at each site to promote our camps.
Based on the USDA census tracking for our school district, we knew we have many poor locations that USDA had mapped. The poverty level for a four-person household is at $50,000. We mailed 3,300 postcards to this demographic — one before the start of the program and once again in the middle of the program. Unfortunately, the children were coming from word of mouth, and the marketing was not very effective.
A big thank you goes out to Diocese of Allentown and its Local Poverty Relief Fund Committee, the three site host churches and the many volunteers who made our program a reality. We also could not have run such a successful program without Second Harvest (supplied food at a very reduced cost), Cops & Kids (books), Toys for Tots (Christmas in July gifts), Whitehall Area Rotary Club, BB&T Bank (backpacks filled with school supplies) and so many more generous individuals, faith-based organizations, businesses and the general public interested in our program. We could not do this program without everyone’s help.
We are extremely happy to serve the children in our area but obviously wished more would come out to participate in our program. We definitely need to expand into many more areas, including Cementon and near the Presidential Drive and Maryland Circle areas. If anyone knows of a location or if anyone knows how we can attract more children for next year, please contact me. Next year, we will grow even bigger!
We have done a phenomenal community service the last two years. A special thank you is given to all who help on our Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative. So many people give their time, talents and treasures. Without everyone’s help — big or small — this summer breakfast camp could not have been as successful as it was.