While food and drink might be frowned upon at some libraries, it certainly wasn’t the case this summer at the Pottawatomie Wabaunsee Regional Library in St. Marys, Kansas. There the staff encouraged eating — handing out sack lunches three days a week as part of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas’ Summer Food Program.

It was the lack of resources in their small rural communities that inspired the library system to participate in the program. “Originally other local organizations weren’t really doing summer food or any kind of food options really, so there was kind of a gap,” explains Judith Cremer, Library Director. “Our goal was to fill that gap. It was a package deal if we could provide them food and also get them into the library to read.”

The summer food program was held at seven of Pottawatomie Wabaunsee’s library branches in conjunction with its Summer Reading Program. Catholic Charities furnished the food and supplies necessary to run the site; the library staff in turn served the meals with the help of local volunteers from Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the St. Marys Knights of Columbus, and others who were interested in lending a hand.

Much of Catholic Charities’ 21-county service area is made up of rural communities that can be described as food and resource deserts – where there are no grocery stores, community resources or public transportation. “Through our Summer Food Program, we are able to serve and provide some relief in communities not typically supported by social services programs,” adds Denise Ogilvie, Vice President, Outreach and Grants Management.

To learn more about the Summer Food Program, visit: catholiccharitiesks.org/kids-summer-food-program