Community Spotlight: Operation Sandwich Provides Summer Lunches to Children
Volunteers of all ages are taking over the kitchen to prepare food as Operation Sandwich kicks off for the summer.
“It’s marvelous to see the littlest of people all the way up to the old people – there’s jobs for everybody,” said Sarah Marshall, pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Brainerd.
A sight of nearly 30 volunteers a day, four times a week for three months is quite uplifting…but it all started after a saddening conversation between a local pastor and some local youth about summer vacation.
“’We like to play outside in the summer but we don’t have any food,’ and I was like, ‘that is a problem, that can’t be the reality that kids live in,’” Marshall said.
That conversation was six years ago and now, Operation Sandwich is now starting their sixth summer of serving the community.
“ISD 181 does have a significant number of children on the free and reduced lunch program; we are at about 40 percent,” said Operation Sandwich Coordinator Tammie Benson. “It’s important that these kids get something to eat when there are no school lunches available.”
In order to successfully complete Operation Sandwich, volunteers put on their gloves and pack 200 lunches a day to help make sure that local children are being fed.
“We like to feed children of all ages, it is not an income based program – anyone is welcome,” Benson said.
The sack lunch each child gets is filled with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a piece of fruit, a granola bar and one other snack item.
“It’s fun to just be able to give out food to whoever needs it without having to ask questions,” Marshall said.
Volunteers are spread out at eight locations at Garfield, Lowell and Harrison schools, Kiwanis and Gregory Park, and new locations near Whipple Beach, Barrows and Stonybrook. Each location will have distribution on Monday through Thursday all summer long, except for the Fourth of July.
“We do send additional supplies with all of our volunteers so that if they do encounter an allergy, they can make a sandwich on the spot and next week we hope to have gluten-free options as well,” Benson said.
This is one community that has rallied together to feed hungry children.
“This is a common story, it is a common narrative that kids live into and that was unacceptable to me,” Marshall said.
But thanks to Operation Sandwich, 8000 meals were handed out in Brainerd and this year, they are on track for similar numbers. All of the food is donated by the community. For more information on how to donate or volunteer, click here.