Local free lunch continues through Aug 1

by Sarah Fay Campbell


Mary Wesley, a volunteer with St. Smyrna Baptist Church, feeds her grandson, Joshua Chioke Johnson, lunch on Friday. Free lunches for those 18 and under are offered Monday through Friday at the church and at other locations through Aug. 1. 

A summer food program offering hot, freshly cooked meals to anyone 18 or under is being offered in Coweta through Aug. 1.

The program, funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offers meals at St. Smyrna Baptist Church on Heery Road and International Learning Academy on the Hwy. 34 Bypass at Jefferson Parkway in Newnan. Meals are also delivered to children on the playgrounds at the Highlands and Eastgate apartment complexes.

Though the program’s primary purpose is to provide lunches for children who typically receive free or reduced lunches at school, everyone is welcome. There are no requirements other than being 18 or younger, and no paperwork to fill out. And the food is delicious. Friday’s offering was Swedish meatballs with egg noodles and green beans.

Monica Peart of International Learning Academy has been participating in a summer food program through her day-care center for years. But she only found out about the community food program this year. “I went through all the hoops and applications and found places to go and serve the meals,” she said.

Peart said the summer food program doesn’t appear to be well-known. There are 109 programs in Georgia. The local sponsor is the Learning Academy Foundation.

Peart “was blessed” to find two great cooks who come in each morning and prepare the food. “The children are getting a very nutritious meal,” Peart said. “The kids also get a snack for later.”

The food program runs from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Smyrna and 11:30 to 12:30 at International Learning Academy. Then, meals are packed into to-go boxes and taken to the playgrounds, usually between 1 and 2 p.m. Peart hopes to grow the program next summer, offering it during the entire summer and at more locations.

“At St. Smyrna, members of the church who are retired educators are assisting with the program and reading to the children,” said Pastor Tamarkus Cook.

There are usually 30 to 40 children each day at St. Smyrna.

“We think it’s a great program, helping the kids out – and the kids seem to like it,” said volunteer Antoinette Shelton.

St. Smyrna Baptist Church is located at 68 Heery Road, off Franklin Highway in Newnan. International Learning Academy is located at 210 Jefferson Parkway, in the former Newnan Academy facility. Meals are served in the rear building.

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