House of Peace Worship Church International offers meals to children
For the past three years, the House of Peace Worship Church International has been offering summer enrichment programs for children at the church that included two meals a day – breakfast and lunch along with a snack.
This enrichment program, which is held in conjunction with the Mississippi State Department of Education Food and Nutrition Department, is offered Mondays through Fridays and begins in June and runs through the end of July, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closures, the outreach program started the nutritional component in March.
“We always serve children with a summer program and a summer camp where we bring them in and feed them for about eight weeks, so when COVID happened we got activated earlier,” the Rev. Linda Sweezer said.
Sweezer said this is the same program that is being offered by the Vicksburg Warren School District but it gives parents the option to drive up for the food instead of waiting at a bus stop.
“We serve anybody that is not at those bus stops,” Sweezer said, adding, “Our parents don’t have to go to the bus stops if they don’t get up to go get it or if they live too far from the bus stop. They can come here and just drive up.”
Staff and volunteers prepare meals at the church, Sweezer said, and Mississippi State Department of Education Food and Nutrition protocol is observed in the preparation.
As with the school district, children are given a brown bag lunch and breakfast for the next morning, which includes healthy “brown bag” meals, milk and juice.
Initially, Sweezer said, it had been a state regulation that children be present in the vehicle to receive the meals, but this mandate was eventually revised.
“They (Mississippi State Department of Education Food and Nutrition Department) issued an opportunity for a waiver where the kids didn’t have to come, so now the parents just come and get the bags,” she said.
For first time recipients, waivers can be signed on-site, which will make children eligible for meals the following day.
However, she said, if the children are in the car, they will be given meals that same day.
“My staff has masks and gloves, and we just pass it to the parents through their vehicle window,” Sweezer said.
Currently, 220 meals, which include both breakfast and lunch, are being prepared and given out at the Vicksburg location, 1301 Holly St. The church also has staff in Rolling Fork, and Sweezer said they are preparing around 300 meals daily.
Because the coronavirus will prevent this year’s summer enrichment program from being held at the church, in addition to the meals, educational material provided by the church will also be given out.
“(That’s) what we decided to do to keep from losing the enrichment program because it is so important to what we do,” Sweezer said, “We are in the process of purchasing books and workbooks and flashcards on math for every age group we are serving. All enrolled right now are going to get some kind of enrichment.”
The free program includes children up to age 17.
For more information, call 601-630-3362.
Sweezer, who also serves as the director of the program, said she works with an exceptional group of people.
“I think all of my staff deserves a pat on the back. They came in at the very beginning of the COVID outbreak and made a decision that they were going to come in Monday through Friday, and they come in early and stay until early afternoon,” Sweezer said. “I am so proud of them and think they are people that need to be honored, and also kudos to the state department for coming in early and seeing the need was here and coming in at such a crucial time along with these people who put their lives on the line every day,” she said.
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