Thursday, July 14, 2011

City to Serve 70,000 Free Meals to Youths

In an effort to ensure that Somerville’s most vulnerable children and youth don’t go hungry this summer, the City plans to serve more than 70,000 free breakfasts and lunches at City parks—and this year recreational activities will add to the draw as well.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program is open to all youth under the age of 19, regardless of need (no registration or I.D. is required). But its intent is to ensure that youth who are food insecure and who rely on free school lunches during the school year, have access to nutritional meals during the summer as well.

In Somerville, 68% of the population under 19 qualifies for free or reduced cost lunches. As a result, the schools serve approximately 3,600 free lunches per day at the public schools during the school year. Somerville Schools Food Service and Nutrition Director Jeanne Irwin says for many, it is their only meal of the day. Weekends, some simply go without.

“It’s really sad. I’ve seen children putting food in their pockets for the weekend. It breaks my heart to know that a child knows, ‘It’s Friday and I won’t have anything to eat until Monday,’” said Irwin. “This program is a good way to reach those kids that have those needs in the summer.”

The Somerville effort is part of the national Summer Food Services Program, which in Massachusetts provides summer meals at 850 locations in 50 communities.

Children who are undernourished during the summer “are at a disadvantage when they return to school in September,” said Dennis Mercier of Project Bread, which conducts outreach for the program. “By providing free, nutritious meals throughout the summer, the SFSP ensures that children have access to the food they need in order to return to school ready to learn.”

A healthy lunch and a free family activity--for all 

In Somerville, free breakfasts and lunches are served via mobile trucks that set up at Somerville parks rain or shine Monday through Friday through August 12th, 20th, or 26th depending on location. All meals meet federal and state nutritional guidelines. Lunches, for example, include two servings of fruit and/or vegetables, a protein, a whole grain, and an 8 oz. milk.

This summer, new menus and a daily activity program are being introduced. Asian noodle salad, summer pasta salad (both with whole grain noodles), and a corn-and-bean salad are all new lunch items.

“We’re really emphasizing whole grains. It’s mandated now and we’ve already done this in the schools. It fills people up for a longer period of time and it’s better for you,” said Irwin.

Accompanying kids activities—which like the meals are open to all—will run at Foss Park in August. The free program spans a wide range of offerings from “Climb a Fire Truck” and a reptile zoo to yoga and cooking lessons.

“What’s really great about this is that it’s open to anyone. So families can go to the park, play in the sprinklers, take part in an activity and grab lunch there too. You don’t have to worry about packing a lunch,” said Irwin. “We can thank Somerville’s diversity for making a program like this available to everyone.”

For location updates, the activity schedule and for further information, click the flyer to the left. For more information, call 800-645-8333 or visit Photo is courtesy of Project Bread.

1 comment:

  1. Would the city consider sponsoring a reduced-price sterilization clinic to help avoid the problem of children being born to parents who cannot support them?


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