A federally funded program through the US Department of Agriculture will be providing free meals (breakfast and lunch) for youth 18 and under at a number of sites around the city this summer.
These summer meals for kids and teens are available Monday-Friday at a number of schools (such as Roosevelt School and New Britain High School, beginning Monday, July 6) and community-based sites (including the Boys & Girls Club, 150 Washington St., and the Willow Brook Park Pool, 80 Mill St.), with some serving food through the third week of August. All sites will be closed today (Friday, July 3). (See full list of sites, their dates and times at the end of this article.)
In all, 19 sites around the city will serve breakfast and/or lunch to hungry city kids this summer. “The program is really open to every child who is 18 or younger at each of the sites in New Britain,” said Jim Palma, Community Network Builder for regional food bank Foodshare, and a member of the New Britain Hunger Action Team, which is working to promote the free summer meals.
“Obviously, they need to show up on the days they are open, but other than that, there is no check; there is no ID required,” added Palma. “If your cousins are from out of town, your cousins can eat in New Britain; or, if someone from New Britain is visiting Bristol [where the program is also being held], they can eat there.”
In addition to New Britain, Foodshare Hunger Action Teams are working to promote the free summer meals program in other communities, including Bristol, Plainville, Bloomfield, Windsor, Enfield, East Hartford, Vernon and Hartford.
Palma noted that the free meals program is “a national program and it’s not based on where you live or who you are. As I said, no one will check your ID; if you’re 18 and a half, you will be fed. It is really that open; we want to encourage kids to come.”
The New Britain Hunger Action Team—a diverse group that includes city representation as well as representatives from the school system and United Way—is working aggressively to get the word out to parents about the free meals program.
According to Palma, the free meals program has existed in New Britain for over 10 years; last year, 83,000 meals were served to city kids and the goal for 2015 is 90,000.
“This program is very important because kids, during the school year, have immediate access to lunch and breakfast while they’re at school, but only about one in four will participate in the summer meal program,” said Palma.
“And we are constantly asking ourselves, ‘why is it so low?’ And while we don’t have any definitive answers, the most common answer we hear from parents is, ‘I just didn’t know about it; I wasn’t made aware of it,’” added Palma. “So we at Foodshare are very interested in closing that gap, and at a minimum, letting all the parents and kids know that such a program exists.”
Parents also incorrectly assume that if their children are not going to summer school, then they can’t eat a meal at a school offering summer school, noted Palma.
“So let’s say you have children living across the street from a school offering summer school, then your kids can go there, like the summer school kids can, and be fed both breakfast and lunch,” said Palma.
New Britain school kids are definitely familiar with the food being served up this summer, according to Palma. “Whitsons Food is a contractor and they contract with the New Britain Public Schools to provide the meals during the school year and they also have the contract to provide the meals during the summer,” said Palma. “So they’re very familiar with food distribution in New Britain; they do it literally all year round.”
“The expertise of Whitsons comes through because they have to balance,” pointed out Palma. “It’s one thing to say it is healthy but it’s another thing to say it is food kids will actually consume; they have to be both. So Whitsons is pretty good and they’re getting better at that, and they take comments very seriously [from customers].”
Zeena Tawfik, New Britain’s Youth and Family Services Director, observed that the summer meals program “is a necessary and vital program for the kids” of New Britain. She added, “For many kids, no school means no food. It’s great to have such a great organization in our network of problem solvers.”
Summer meals menus will be available on the school system food services website, according to Palma, and may also be requested at the meal sites. In addition, people may text 877877 to find out the closest meals site and to confirm meal times.
“End Hunger Connecticut! are our colleagues and they put together that database where that texting feature operates,” said Palma. “This is a collaborative [effort].”
School-based meal sites: Open July 6 – July 31: CREC – Medical Professions and Teacher Prep Academy, 600 Slater Road, Breakfast 8:45-9; Open July 6-August 23: Roosevelt School, 40 Goodwin Street, Breakfast 7:30-8:30 & Lunch 12:30-1:30; Open July 6-August 21: New Britain High School, 110 Mill Street, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 11-12:30; Open July 6-August 7: CCMC School, 300 John Downey Drive, Breakfast 8:30-9:30 & Lunch 11:30-12:30;
Open July 27-August 14: Lincoln School, 145 Steele Street, Breakfast 7:30-8:30 & Lunch 12:30 -1:30; Transitional Center, 757 Farmington Ave., Breakfast 7:30-8:30 & Lunch 12:30-1:30; Chamberlain Elementary School, 120 Newington Avenue, Breakfast 8-8:30 & Lunch 11:30-12; Open July 27 – August 13: DiLoreto Magnet School, 732 Slater Road, Breakfast 7:30-8:30 & Lunch 11:30-12:30;
Community-based meal sites: Open June 22-August 21: Boys & Girls Club, 150 Washington Street, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 12-1; HRA, 58 Scarlet Drive, Breakfast 9-10:30 & Lunch 12:30-1:30; Pathways Senderos, 43 Viets Street, Lunch 12-1:30; YWCA, 19 Franklin Square, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 12-1; Open June 22- August 7: AW Stanley Park, 2159 Stanley Street, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 11:30-12:30; Willow Brook Park Pool, 80 Mill Street, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 11:30-12:30;
Open July 6- August 14: OIC-St Ann School, 114 North Street, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 12-1; Oval Grove Development, 12 Dobek Road, Breakfast 8-9 & Lunch 12-1:30; Mt. Pleasant, 14 Armistice Street, Breakfast 8-9 & Lunch 12-1; PAL, 544 Osgood Avenue, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 11-12; Open July 14 – August 21: HRA, 35 Oak Street, Breakfast 9-10 & Lunch 12:30-1:30.
For more information, visit www.ctsummermeals.org.