GREAT FALLS — Get Fit Great Falls is hosting summer activities at four parks in the community. The "Park Pals" program offers free food, activities, and prizes. There is no cost for kids to participate.
Here is the schedule for the program, which began on June 14th and runs through August 11th:
- Lions Park - 2701 10th Avenue South: 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. (food at 11:15 a.m)
- Carter Park - 611 3rd Street South: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (food provided)
- Rhodes Park - 812 Central Avenue West: 12:45 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. (food at 12:25 p.m.)
- Gibson Park - 400 Park Drive North: 1:45 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (food at 12:55 p.m.)
As soon as a Great Falls Public Schools food trailer pulled up to Lions Park on Friday morning, kids and their parents lined up for some food.
"It helps me a lot because I'm a little low-income, kind of,” said parent Desiree Walker.
"I think it's wonderful because, first of all, I don't have to provide lunch all summer long and it's something quick we can come do. My kids enjoy the different meals that they get every day,” said parent Laura Grieve.
Get Fit Great Falls board member Kim Skornogoski said participation in the program always grows as the summer progresses: "The food truck actually gives away more than 10,000 meals over the course of the summer."
She said the food truck as well as the activities serve a big need. "We go to Lions Park and Gibson Park and have these wonderful activities for kids, but we also go to parks in low-income neighborhoods. What we see is a lot of times those are kids that would sped the day indoors not eating healthy food."
She added, "The fact that we can get kids outside into the parks spending time with caring adults and getting that healthy meal, it can really make a big difference for a lot of kids in our community."
According to the latest data from Feeding America, an estimated 111,000 people are facing hunger issues of some type in Montana; more than 35,000 are children. A combination of charitable donations and government assistance help bridge this gap. The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as the food stamp program, provides money to buy food for the Park Pals program. In Montana, nearly 40 percent of households receiving SNAP benefits had children.
The Get Fit Great Falls website notes: "If you’re having trouble finding our Park Pals, just look for the two volunteers in bright green shirts! We do not have the GFPS Food Truck at every location, but we promise we’re there!"
For more information, call 406-454-6950. The program is operated by Great Falls Public Schools, Great Falls Park & Recreation Department, United Way of Cascade County, and No Kid Hungry.