STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
JOHNSON CITY — Area organizations in Johnson City are uniting to ensure children can get a meal and a book this summer.
The Kids’ Lunch Club will serve free lunches each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 105 N. LBJ Drive. The lunches end July 28 with a free pool party, location to be determined.
“Bring cousins. We’ll feed your mom,” church member and volunteer George Barnette said. “Just come on in.”
While there, young readers can choose a book to take home through an informal lending library. When they return it, they’re welcome to pick another. If the book isn’t returned? It’s found a good home, Barnette said.
Once they eat and find a book, children are welcome to play basketball under the pavilion at the church.
The idea for the free meals was the result of Barnette speaking to the Johnson City’s Women’s Civic Club about volunteering for such a program. By the time he finished speaking, the members had talked amongst themselves and committed to helping.
“They have always provided the core of our cooking teams,” he said. “It wouldn’t have gotten off the ground and done so quickly. It’s the club that made it work.”
He noted the Johnson City Independent School District doesn’t provide lunches and the city doesn’t have a Boys & Girls Club to fill that gap. But hungry children, especially those who depend on free meals during school, must be fed.
The program sees the most children — about 25 per meal — during June and July.
“We prepare for three dozen,” Barnette said. “We have groups of ladies who volunteer. They do the cooking in teams of about four to six.”
Some churches will form two teams, which means each squad cooks once every three weeks.
At first, they considered serving sandwiches, Barnette said, but quickly decided they could do better than that.
Barnette said the teams make it a point to cook kid-friendly meals such as sloppy joes, pizza, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, spaghetti, and more.
“We looked at the food program through the food banks,” he said. “We’ll come in and cook hot meals, kid-friendly meals. They’ll cook things kids like to eat.”
He noted one meal featured roasted turkey.
“They picked that bird apart,” Barnette said with a laugh.
And they don’t forget dessert. Ice cream will be available, and there’ll be enough food for seconds, especially dessert.
There’s no charge, and no proof of residence is needed. Attendees will be asked to fill out a short registration form that includes allergy information and to receive an invitation to the pool party.
Email Barnette at email@example.com for more information.