Cooking up something great in Itawamba County

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

“It just blew up here; it caught like wildfire,” said Natalie Blackmon, head of the Dorsey Attendance Center cafeteria and one of the coordinators for the area’s summer feeding program.

The program, which is being hosted by the Itawamba County School District’s Food Service program, kicked off in early June and currently provides kids throughout the county with two free meals each day, served at four separate locations.

But of the four participating locations, it’s Pine Grove Missionary Baptist Church that has seen by far the largest amount of support. An average of between 60 and 75 kids attend the program each weekday, which operates with the help of 15 volunteers.

Although the primary goal of the program is to distribute healthy, free meals to the county’s children while they’re out of school, several of the locations are also using the program to host educational games and fun activities.

Coker called it “community support” and said that the Dorsey area had it in droves.

“The Dorsey community just really got behind this program and supported it,” he said. “It’s a community that really cares about its young people.”

Each weekday, the program beings at 8 a.m. with breakfast. What follows is a bevy of different activities, headed by the pastors and members of four Dorsey area churches. There are fun games, physical activities, school lessons, tutoring and more. It all culminates with lunch at 11 a.m.

“It’s fun,” said Iyauna Dunn, an IAC fifth-grader who’s been attending the program off and on. “We do some work and then get to go outside. My favorite part is going outside to play.”

Blackmon – who laughed and said she didn’t get to participate in the program as often as she liked because she has to help prepare the food to feed all those participants – lauded the efforts of her community.

“It has brought our community together,” she said, adding that the program has proven so popular that several volunteers even take time to drive around the area and pick up kids to carry them to the church.

“We knew if the parents would let us have their children for a few hours each day, it would go really well,” Blackmon said, adding that it was nice to see area churches uniting for the program. “The pastors at our churches have been wanting to do something like this for a long time … So, we knew once the word got out, it would go well.”

The Itawamba County School District’s Food Service Summer Feeding Program is open to kids up to 18 years of age and will continue through most of July. Breakfast is served Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunch follows from 11 a.m. until noon.

The four primary locations that are participating in the program are Saint Matthew Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Drive in Fulton, Itawamba Attendance Center, Pine Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Dorsey and at the Mantachie school extended year program.

Coker said the strong show of support for the program foreshadows a great future.

“I really do think this is something that will grow,” he said, adding that by next year the group will have all the little kinks worked out.

“It’s like a recipe,” Coker said. “You don’t really know what it’s going to be like until you try it. Once you do, you want to add a little something to it until it’s just right.”

Following Dorsey’s recipe, he said, will get them there.

Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing adam.armour@journalinc.com or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.