Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 17, 2018

Students get free books, free meal

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Aug 21, 2017
Photo by: NICOLE MAJOR/Ledger photos Marci Dunlap, center, lets kids know that they can choose two books for free during a book giveaway Wednesday at the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center.

Local youth recently got a chance to enjoy a healthy meal and to get a good read in, thanks to a food services program started by the Fairfield Community School District’s food services director Stephanie Hawkins.

Hawkins, who formerly worked for Davis County public schools, helped establish a unique summer feeding program that put her school on the map to be noticed by the Iowa Department of Education. She duplicated that program in Fairfield.

With help from local nonprofit organizations such as the Fairfield Kiwanis Club, Hawkins purchased 980 books from a company called First Book, and distributed them Wednesday to each youngster who attended free lunch at either the Fairfield Public Library or the Roosevelt Community Recreation Center.

Youth gobbled down a healthy lunch of ham and cheese, strawberries, cantaloupe and baby carrots, and each child got a chance to choose two of their favorite books.

“It’s good,” said 12-year-old Tristain McBride of the free lunch. He said that he would be “just browsing,” the many books that he had access to.

McBride said that he frequents lunch at the rec center, and that the meals are “healthy and taste good.”

His friend, Sailor Scott, 10, sat down to peruse his book choices of “Star Wars: Beware the power of the darkside” and “So you want to be a Jedi,” before settling down to lunch.

“It’s actually pretty good here,” Scott said, adding that he would sometimes go to the library for lunch instead of the rec center.

“This makes my heart just beat,” Hawkins said. “Within the first two months of doing this, we served almost 4,000 meals.”

Hawkins said funds for the books came from three different donors.

“We also got money from a disbanded literary group, and an anonymous donor,” she said.

School superintendent Laurie Noll was on hand helping out as well. However, she gave all of the credit to Hawkins for putting the event together.

“She ordered this and got all of these free books for children. This is definitely Stephanie’s vision,” Noll said, as she unloaded cartons of books and helped set up a table and book shelf for book distribution at the rec center.

District curriculum director Marci Dunlap helped out, too.

“We are just her helpers today because this is so awesome,” Noll said.

“We had a lot of new people coming into the community who were at the library. Some of them don’t speak English,” Hawkins said, commenting that she was able to help one of them select from the wide variety of free book offerings.

Hawkins said the books that come from First Book are high quality, and some would even retail for as much as $20. She said the company sells the books for as little as $3 a piece, and sometimes only charge for shipping them.

Although there were initially four free lunch sites, Hawkins said two were closed.

“We closed Howard Park, because only three were coming out. We also closed the [Fairfield] Middle School due to the construction and large equipment there,” she said. “We are looking for concentrated areas for children for lunch. Now the state fair is going on so numbers had fallen some.”

Hawkins said she’s grateful for her staff and the volunteers who were diligent with the program this summer.

Jane Pohren served free lunch during the summer and said she has been a “lunch lady” for 25 years and that the expanded free summer lunch program had been a great experience for her. Her granddaughter, Haley Pohren-Gevock volunteered her time serving lunches from time to time during the summer. Fairfield High School senior Shawn Spurrier volunteered his time throughout the whole summer.

“At first, I did it off and on just when she needed my help. But when I do it I really enjoy it,” Pohren-Gevock said.

Spurrier said he also enjoyed helping, and that the program was good for the community.

“Beth Swafford, Kimberly Stark and Linda Kennedy were our cooks who helped this summer at other sites,” Hawkins said.




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