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30 volunteers helped feed children in summer

For seven summers, Chewelah UCC has been joining with 30 volunteers from local churches to feed school children during the summer months.

Chris Johnson and Holly Peterson of Chewelah UCC join in community effort  to provide food for children in the summers.

Photos courtesy of Holly Peterson

The church works through the Chewelah Faith Resources Group (CFRG) to provide nutritious food for students when they do not have access to school meals.

Holly Peterson of Chewelah UCC said they use funds from grants to purchase food for breakfast and lunch.

They then distribute the food  to families with school-aged children on five occasions every two weeks during the second half of the summer.  

The CFRG began the program in 2015 to fill the gap until Labor Day by providing boxes of food for pick-up on Mondays when the Chewelah Food Bank was open. 

“We chose the name TASTY Kids’ Summer Feeding Program, with TASTY is an acronym for Temporary Added Sustenance To Youth,” said Holly, who moved to Chewelah from Montana 50 years ago with her husband, Ron. Both were teachers, so the opportunity to serve children was appealing.

The objective is to provide wholesome and healthy food to children in the Chewelah, Summit Valley and Valley School Districts. 

Applications for the program were provided to the school districts and were made available at the Chewelah and Valley Food Banks. 

The CFRG volunteers prepared an initial shopping list. They took it to the local Safeway to determine which products were lowest in sodium, saturated fat, refined grains and added sugars, she said.

The foods provided were reviewed by a registered dietician and were chosen for their nutrient content. 

We also partnered with the Chewelah Farmer’s Market by providing $25 vouchers, so kids could select fresh produce of their liking,” Holly said.

“After the final food delivery, we decided we had enough money still available to be able to support the Chewelah and the Valley School Districts’ weekend backpack snack programs during the school year in the amount of $1,000 each,” she said.

“We initially budgeted to provide food to 175 children then raised the number to 200 because of the expected impact of the COVID-19 virus,” she said. 

CRFG gave food to 30 children the first year. The number peaked at 140 children from 54 families two years ago. This year, they provided food to 128 children from 51 families. 

“We did a remarkable job of advertising the program but, truthfully, the Chewelah and Valley School Districts report that they provide free or reduced lunches to 670 kids so we can still grow,” she said.
We expect to increase our efforts next summer to reach even more families requiring assistance.

Each year, about six of the volunteers have been from Chewelah UCC.

“This program may help spawn other useful outreach projects in Chewelah, the poorest town in Washington, according to information a few years ago,” Holly said.

Continuing their fruitful working relationship with the local Safeway manager, they are now given a 10 percent discount on all items purchased.

“Families have been appreciative and grateful for this program,” she said.  “In some cases, they have been introduced to foods they ordinarily wouldn’t have.”

Holly appreciates the opportunity to work with other churches in the community through the Chewelah Faith Resources Group. She and Ron were United Methodist before coming to Chewelah. As new teachers, the superintendent and principal, who were both in the UCC, invited them.  Ron has been music director for many years.

Chewelah UCC, which is the first Protestant church in the Colville Valley, founded in 1879 by missionary Cushing Eells. One of the bells he donated to churches the area stands outside the church.

Holly, who is on the PNC Church Development Committee and the Ministry Resources Committee, said that the community volunteers, masked, packed food for the TASTY program through the last two summers despite COVID, packing food at the senior center beside the food bank

For information, email call 509-935-6572 or email


Copyright © Fall 2021 - Pacific Northwest Conference United Church of Christ News


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