Eastern Kansas

Look to Kansas' Montgomery County as a good example of community spirit. Local agencies, organizations, businesses--and volunteers--are working together to help kids learn to be good citizens.

Residents in Coffeyville and Independence have united to offer "lunch p-l-u-s" as part of a summer food service program sponsored in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As a result, students age 18 and under who are eligible for the lunch program also can benefit from free educational programs during the noon hour, said Linda Carr, Kansas State University Research and Extension agent in Montgomery County.

More than 400 students are benefiting this summer, she said.

"The kids say they look forward to lunch, but the 40 different educational programs offered during the eight-week summer food service program help hold their interest," said Carr.

The programs include:

--"Road Trip, USA," presented by children's librarian, Becky Passauer;.

--"Safety in the Home," by Sheriff Jack Daniels;.

--"Getting Started with Spanish," by the K-State summer program students;.

--"Who is Uncle Sam?" by Carr and Gail Norton, who is an Extension program assistant; and.

--"Magnets," by Jim Catlett, from the Science and Technology Center.

To underwrite the educational effort, the Extension Family and Consumer Science Program Development Committee; Mercy Hospital; Coffeyville Boys and Girls Club; and Family Nutrition Program Advisory Council worked together with residents, organizations and businesses to raise $5,000 to bring a K-State summer team to Montgomery County to help with the program.

The four students work from office space made available by the Job Service Center and the American Red Cross. The students are Brett Plattner, who is from Lowell, MI, and graduated from K-State in 2001 with a degree in microbiology; Janet Jackson from St. George, KS, who is currently majoring in anthropology; Sarah Elliott from Morrowville, KS, who is currently majoring in family and consumer sciences; and Aldo Azuara from Tampico, Mexico, who is currently majoring in industrial engineering.

Carr credited the K-State team with bringing energy and enthusiasm to the daily educational efforts. "Their educational goals and interests also help them serve as role models for many of the summer food service program participants."

The program has served the Coffeyville community for four years and the Independence community for three years.

The initial summer food service program was implemented with the help of the Kansas Department of Education; Campaign to End Childhood Hunger (C-TECH); Volunteers in Service to America (Vista); the Boys and Girls Clubs; Mercy Hospital; Coffeyville School District; Montgomery County Health Department; and K-State Research and Extension.

"The noon meal may be the only meal kids can depend on," said Carr, who praised participating USD 445 food service director Janette Dick; Mercy Hospital dietitian, Amy Bain, and Montgomery County Family Nutrition Program assistant, Gail Norton, for their key roles in the summer program.

Most of the food is provided by the USDA, she said.

"The success of the summer "lunch p-l-u-s" program reflects our county's commitment to young people. At a time when so many people say they're 'too busy,' Montgomery Countians have stepped forward to nourish children and help them learn to be responsible citizens. I believe that children who benefit from the program now will, in turn, give back to others in the future," Carr said.

For more information on the innovative program to help children, call the K-State Research and Extension office in Montgomery County at (620) 331-2690.

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