By CHRIS LADD
Working together to serve a great need is what the Portland First Baptist church and several other
churches in the community are doing.
The Portland churches are combining their resources to feed children each Tuesday and Thursday as
part of the Kids Summer Lunch Program.
During the past few years, the Portland First Baptist Church would pick up kids in different areas around Portland on Wednesday night. They would serve up a warm hot meal and talk about the gospel.
According to Portland First Baptist volunteer Jessica Shadowens, several of the women were talking one night and was wondering what the kids do during the summer months.
“We have a recent map from the Food Research & Action Center and the green area of the map shows
the children that qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Shadowens said. “That’s a big area of Portland and many of these kids aren’t getting the right amount of food during the summer.”
Last year, they started a trial run serving about 40 kids and they discovered that many of the kids
wouldn’t eat their food. The kids would eat small portions of the food and would want to take the rest
of the food home to share with their families.
Once the church volunteers figured out what was happening they decided to give each child a chance to make a to-go box to share with their families.
“This is definitely a need in our community,” Shadowens said. “We’ve been able to partner with other
churches in the community and the food is being delivered at different sites around Portland.”
Portland First Baptist cooks the food such as chicken nuggets and fills the boxes with chips and several other snack items. Representatives from the different churches involved pick up the food and take it to the sites around Portland.
The sites that are hosting the kids include the Portland Church of Nazarene, Oak Street Baptist Church, Christian Faith Church, McKendree United Methodist Church, First Baptist of Mitchellville, Housing Authority on Donoho Drive, and off Scotty Parker Road. Not all sites are churches and will have signs in the area directing the kids where to go.
“This year will be a test run to see how it goes,” Shadowens added. “We hope to grow this and be able
to serve more children and families next year.”
On Tuesday morning, 145 box lunches were prepared to be passed out at the different locations.
The Portland Police Department was also a big help and helping them find places with the biggest need.
At first, they looked at getting grants from the government to do this. First Baptist Portland qualified to receive some financial assistance but decided as a church to do this on donations from the church. They also received a grant from the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and were able to get money from them to pay for the meals.
“Our mission is to feed these children in Portland and share the gospel with them,” Shadowens added. “If a child doesn’t want to hear the message, that’s OK as well.”
The Kids Summer Lunch program is every Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the different sites around Portland. You don’t have to live near the sites to participate in the free meal. If a child is dropped off they will need to be picked up by noon.