A group of caring individuals from throughout Devils Lake and the Lake Region grew increasingly concerned about the children in this community who do not have enough to eat.

A group of caring individuals from throughout Devils Lake and the Lake Region grew increasingly concerned about the children in this community who do not have enough to eat.

The city’s school system provides breakfast, snacks and hot lunch for those youngsters at free or reduced rates, for those who are eligible, while they are in school, but what about summer vacation? What was needed was a place where kids could freely come to be fed on a daily basis during June, July and August. Although they approached one of the city’s schools at the time, they were met with little interest and were encouraged to look elsewhere.

These conversations came together following the establishment of the Hope Center (the city's food pantry) and at about the same time as the birth of the Lake Region Community Shelter (its homeless shelter).

CHI St. Alexius Health Devils Lake Hospital stepped up to help by providing the hot meals and administrative help.

What they needed was a place that was accessible for children that could serve as a feeding site. Why not use the Community Shelter as a feeding site? That was the birth of the Summer Lunch Program that flourished in 2017. A few of the many volunteers who helped get the program established and run that summer gathered Monday evening at the Shelter to talk about their experience and what is ahead for the program. They shared their stories about how everything fell into place from the nutrition education provided by the Ramsey County Extension Service to the donations from the service clubs like Kiwanis, Rotary and Odd Fellows.

Market president Andrew “Andy” Lankowicz called it “a match made in heaven.”

Karen Knick who directs the Shelter said they had so many people volunteering to help with the program that often the volunteers outnumbered the kids. They studied what other cities throughout the state were doing and created their own program, unique to this community while at the same time meeting all the guidelines set by the ND Department of Public Instruction for a reimbursable nutrition program. When a staff member of DPI visited the site, they found that all guidelines were being met in place which they commented seldom happened with a first year program.

The need continues to grow. This year, for the first time, all of the city’s schools meet the requirements from the Department of Public Instruction for reimbursement for their free and reduced meal program.

The need is greater than ever, therefore as the school year rushes to its end, plans for this summer’s meal program have already begun. This summer the meals will not have to be transported from the hospital to the shelter because Central Middle School will be preparing and serving the meals Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. (Noon) to 1 p.m. every day except the 4th of July (when there is a free picnic meal provided in Roosevelt Park for everyone following the parade).

All children 18 year of age or under will eat for free at CMS, according to Superintendent of Devils Lake Schools, Scott Privratsky.