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City will continue sponsoring feeding program

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By Travis Jenkins

They will no longer have its beloved, longtime director, but the City of Chester will continue to have the Summer Feeding Program.

Chester association with the program that offers meals to thousands of children in the city, in the county and into parts of Lancaster goes back to 2012. At that point, anew sponsor was needed because York was undecided about continuing its sponsorship and the program requires a sponsor to survive. The USDA provides reimbursements for the price of meals, which go to children as a way to bridge the gap left by the lack of school lunches in the summer months.
The City of Chester took on sponsorship in 2013. The initial understanding was that the only costs to be incurred would be for trash bags and some postage fees. The cost has at times actually reached nearly $100,000 annually as the program has expanded in terms of areas served and the introduction of breakfast. In 2016, the city considered making substantial cutbacks, but Councilman Carlos Williams (who said he would have gone hungry as a child on many days without the program) collected donations and items to be auctioned off to supplement the program, which helped stave off the reductions.

Sadly, Peggy Johnson, who served as director of the program since before the city became a sponsor, passed away earlier this month. On Monday, Chester City Council discussed “personnel matter, summer feeding program” in executive session. Upon  returning to open session, Councilwoman Susan Kovas made a motion to have the city “continue the summer feeding program” and open hiring for a new director and assistant director.

“I thought we already had an assistant director,” Councilman William “Budda” Killian said.

Councilwoman Angela Douglas noted that the program has to be renewed annually, meaning there technically a director and assistant director have to be named each year. The council voted 5-1 to approve Kovas’ motion. Killian was the lone dissenting vote while Councilman William King and Councilwoman Linda Tinker were absent and Mayor George W. Caldwell left at the outset of executive session.