Lunch Box program begins July 7 in Geneseo

Claudia Loucks
Linda Flatt and Brent Boxell are in charge of the “The Lunch Box” program which provides lunches for young people in Geneseo and surrounding communities. The program begins Wednesday, July 7, at the Geneseo High School tennis courts.

“The Lunch Box” project was launched in Geneseo in the summer of 2019 with a goal of eliminating food insecurity for young people in the community and will continue this summer with the same goal, but in a different manner of distribution.

Last summer, because of the restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, “The Lunch Box” distribution site was outside of the small building at the Geneseo High School tennis courts, 700 North State St.

The “grab ‘n go” meals will be available at the same site this summer, for pickup of five lunches, from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. every Wednesday, beginning Wednesday, July 7.

Five meals will be available on Wednesdays all during summer break with the exception of holidays.

The program is open to area children from four to 18 years of age, and those picking up meals may not stay on the school grounds to eat, but are to pick up the meals and leave the site.

This year’s “Lunch Box” is operated in conjunction with the Geneseo School District, the USDA, and Illinois State Board of Education – Nutrition Division.

The meals will be prepared by the food service staff in the Geneseo School District, under food service director Michele Hepner.

The program is a faith-based community-wide effort with Brent Boxell, executive director at First United Methodist Church in Geneseo, at the helm of the “The Lunch Box,” and Linda Flatt as assistant director. The program is supported by a number of foundations and the Geneseo Ministerial Association.

Boxell estimates about 500 to 1,000 lunches will be given out on Wednesdays…”We will utilize volunteers to assist with the operation,” he said. For more information, contact Boxell at b.boxell@peopleneedjesus.org or Flatt at l.flatt@peopleneedjesus.org.

“There is no need for kids to sign up in advance, we just want them to show up,” Boxell said.

Boxell said the program was launched in 2019 after the Rev. Dr. Chris Ritter, directing pastor at First United Methodist Church, received a letter from the Illinois State Board of Education - Nutrition Division, asking the church to consider being a sponsor in an eating program for kids during the summer. The program also is in conjunction with the USDA.

Boxell said, “We know that God’s hand is in this and He has taken us through a number of roadblocks and challenges and given us direction and guidance so that we can still offer the program to children in the area.”