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Community organizations in Camden cooperate to make sure kids are fed in the summer and all year long

Camden County helping keep kids fed over summer
Camden County helping keep kids fed over summer 02:58

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — In the lunch line at Camden High School, pizzas hot out of the oven are sliced and fresh fruits and healthy meals are served.

"Lunch helps me take a break from all the intense work here," said Nyheem Hammond, a student at the school.

For many students, lunch is a chance to reset and allows kids to focus better with a full stomach.

"You cannot learn without eating. You have to eat and so it's important to keep our students nourished," said Arlethia Brown, the senior director of school nutrition for the Camden City School District.

As we approach the end of the school year, Brown says the meal program has been expanded into the summer months, and a federally funded Department of Agriculture program will also help feed students on Saturdays.

"Some of our students may not have healthy options or may not have access to meals at home, and we want to make sure school meals are available to students every time of the day," Brown said.

The Saturday Brunch Program takes place at Camden High School each week from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To help fill the gap and provide more options for families, Mighty Writers, a nonprofit offering programs for students in Camden, also opened a food pantry during the pandemic.

In this program, hundreds of families are served Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. all year round. The food pantry is located at 1801 Broadway in Camden.

The food pantry has everything from a warm prepared meal to canned goods and toiletries. Officials say the need for food increases in the summer with students out of school. 

"We don't ask for information. Anybody that needs that help, come on down. Get food, diapers, other things … anything you may need. If we don't have it, we're gonna try to find a resource to get it for you," said Derrick Gallashaw, the senior director of Mighty Writers Camden.

"We're watching these kids grow up right before our eyes, and we are making sure we make ourselves available for them," said Captain Vivian Coley of Camden County Police.

Camden County Police work hand in hand with Mighty Writers by helping deliver food to families in need. Officers also feed students during the department's open gym on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the year. It's an example of the department's community policing model and another way Camden County is making sure children don't go hungry.

"They need it, they deserve it, and students should never have to worry about where their meals are going to come from," Brown said.

"Being hungry and learning is pretty hard, so it helps with focus," Hammond said.

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