Shepard Hill Elementary School provides breakfast, lunch through summer
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Mon., Jul. 15, 2013
From July 1 to Aug. 8, Shepard Hill Elementary School in Plainfield will serve as an open food site for a free breakfast and lunch program aimed at children 18-years-old and under. The only requirement is that they show up. No applications or documentation is required. Residency isn't even an issue. The program is an attempt to shore up the food insecurity of a population that counts on free or reduced breakfasts and lunches when school is in session. Once school ends, officials fear that those children can slip through the cracks and find themselves hungry.
Because more than 50-percent of Shepard Hill students are on free and reduced meals, the site qualifies as an open food site. It is one of 400 food sites across the state that are offering free breakfasts and lunches this summer. Officials say that only one in four students who make use of school year meals utilize the summer meal program.
According to the non-profit organization Feeding America, 19.1-percent of children statewide are suffering from food insecurity. That translates into 157,000 children under the age of 18. Food insecurity is the term the government uses for hunger, according to Dawn Crayco, deputy director of End Hunger Connecticut. “This is definitely an issue,” she said. “In the summer it's worse because kids don't have access to the school meals. The overall family food budget and food stamp dollars are stretched to the limit. This program really helps with that.”
Summer doesn't just put an end to school meal programs, it's also a tough time for food pantries. “We know that food pantries are often bare,” Crayco. “Summer is their toughest time. Donations are down in the summer. They don't see as much food coming in.” Consequently, they don't have the resources to provide additional staples to families in the summer.
Crayco and the state would like to see an increased participation in the summer meals program. Officials worry that children aren't just going hungry, they are losing out on the benefits of healthy nutrition that fuel their brain cells.
Crayco wants the meals to be a resource for families as well as food pantry staff. “We want to let them know that we exist,” she said. “They can send kids to the site.”
Shepherd Hill Elementary school serves breakfast Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Lunch is available from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. daily. For more information go to www.ctsummerfood.org.