A small group is taking on the challenge of feeding the children of Milton. The Milton United Methodist Church on Monday, June 11, launched a free summer lunch program at one of the city’s parks. A nine-person planning team, calling itself the One Apple Lunch Bunch, has organized a program to offer meals each weekday throughout the summer, ending on Aug. 31. The idea originated a year ago when a staff member at a local elementary school lamented that not all children eagerly anticipate summer vacation. For some, it’s the end of structure and healthy routines, and many go without adequate food and are hungry.

Milton UMC began organizing the summer program, which isn’t designed to be a church project but a community partnership. The program received grants from The Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation and the Milton Community Fund, two corporate sponsorships, and volunteer participation from several local businesses, community organizations and individuals, as well as other congregations in Milton.

Milton UMC last year created the position of part-time outreach coordinator, and in that role Barb Braun organized the team that dreamed the lunch program into reality. Planners include moms of young children, a high school senior, retirees, and a cross-section of church members and friends. The team includes Kelli Baker, Pat Cameron, Megan Carstens, Jill Holt, Julie Hull, Penny Moore, Elizabeth Parker, Megan Rudolph, Karen Schmeling and Judy Wenham.

The Chamber of Commerce organized a ribbon-cutting on June 11, at which 62 children were served on the first day of the program. Meals will be served each day at Lamar Park, next to Milton West Elementary School. The program intends to reach children ages four through sixth grade, but other family members who show up will be fed as long as the supply of food lasts.

Many children receive food assistance during the school year, but during the summer they don’t stop being hungry. The planning team was moved by statistics from Feeding America that indicate one in six U.S. children may not know where they will get their next meal. For nearly 13 million kids in the U.S. facing hunger, getting the energy they need to learn and grow can be a day-in, day-out challenge. Based on the official poverty definitions, in 2007 (the latest year for which data are available), 37.3 million people (12.5%) lived in households with incomes below the poverty thresholds in the U.S. Of these, 13.3 million were children under age 18 years, and 5.1 million were children under six years of age.