By Travis Gulbrandson
VOLIN — Depending on the outcome of a grant process, residents of Volin and Gayville will have the chance to get free lunches during the summer, either on certain days, or all through the week.
The Summer Lunch Program has grown in part out of the success of the Volin-Gayville Food Pantry, which was established through the Horizons program.
"We were hoping to provide at least a little bit of assistance over the summer," said volunteer Barbara Egbert. "We were looking initially at maybe a couple days a week having a meal for anyone who would like a meal — primarily kids, but anybody who would like one."
Pick-up locations have tentatively been assigned to Gayville Lutheran Church and Volin Town Hall.
In April, Egbert filed for a federal grant which would allow the program to be available throughout the week, but she is still waiting on word as to its status.
"They said they're hoping to hear any day," she said.
That puts the planning "in limbo" for now, she said.
"I guess we'll move forward with what we had originally thought we would do — just one or two days per week," Egbert said. "And then, if it comes through, what we would do is extend it to sack lunches probably for the whole week."
Regardless of the number of days its available, the program will be the first of its kind for the Volin-Gayville area.
"They do have them in Yankton, and that's kind of where we got the idea," Egbert said.
The food pantry was also a factor and will provide part of the resources for the lunch program.
"We've got things pretty well established, and that would help alleviate some of the stress on families over the summer," Egbert said.
Approximately 40 percent of the students at Gayville-Volin School take advantage of the subsidized meals the school offers, she added.
"There were some teachers who said they thought there was a need, and there have been several teachers who have offered to help," Egbert said. "But on the other hand, it's not a school-sponsored project. It grew out of the food pantry and the Horizons survey."
Apart from the lunches, program organizers also hope to provide some information to the participants.
"We're hoping if we get this grant to be able to supply some education about basic nutrition and expose them to a balanced diet — fruits, vegetables, that type of thing," Egbert said. "If we have a sack lunch, we would definitely want to have fresh fruits and vegetables included along with the sandwich."
She added that she hopes the Summer Lunch Program will become as successful as the food pantry.
"People have been very supportive. We have a steady input of food and a steady output of food," she said.
Donations have been sporadic but generous, she said.
"We've had periodic fundraisers where people will either donate food or money," Egbert said. "When we had our start-up last summer, we had a very generous response. We've been using a lot of that money still.
"Plus, I take advantage of the South Dakota Food Bank and (the Emergency Food Assistance Program), where you can also get food for free or for the cost of shipping," she said.
Egbert pointed out that the Summer Lunch Program started because it was something that different members of the community saw a need, and went about fulfilling it.
"Grassroots is a good way of putting it. It's been a grassroots process," she said.
For more information about the program, contact Egbert at 267-4336.