Summer lunch pilot program a success

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Mon., Jul. 29, 2013

While there are 143,000 children in the state of Connecticut who receive free or reduced lunches, only about 25-percent of them utilize the free lunch programs during the summer. The Connecticut No Kid Hungry campaign is a federally-funded partnership between End Hunger Connecticut and Share Our Strength – a national organization working to end childhood hunger. The program is administered through the state Department of Education, with the help of local sponsors

The summer lunch program provides free, nutritious lunches to children under 18, regardless of whether they partake in a school lunch program, but the sites are based on levels of participation in the area's school lunch programs. There are 400 sites across Connecticut that provide the service, and the first one in Glastonbury began this year at Welles Village.

That program began largely due to the efforts of Peace Jam – a student-activist group, which operates under the umbrella of Glastonbury Youth and Family Services.

Dawn Crayco of End Hunger CT! said that while many of the programs are open, the program in Glastonbury is for participants in programs at the Welles Village Community Center, but is acting as a pilot program and helping to identify if other sites are needed in town.

Shannon Robins – Connecticut No Kid Hungry campaign manager – said the Peace Jam group wanted to fight hunger in the community, and met with No Kid Hungry representatives. “We ended up talking a lot about the summer meals program, and they got the schools and housing authority involved,” Robins said.

The program serves between 35 and 55 meals per day, according to Jane Grant of the Community Renewal Team, which is the site sponsor and provides the meals.

Community Renewal Team provides meals for 27 sites in 7 towns, including Enfield, Middletown and Windsor Locks. To make the experience positive for the children participating, many summer meals locations have activities such as arts and crafts, team sports/outdoor activities, board games, or reading activities.

“We spend some time trying to recruit volunteers and share best practices with sponsors to find that extra thing that will draw in kids,” Crayco said.“If we include activities in these sites, the kids are going to be more active and engaged.”

About 50-percent of eligible children, well above the state average, are using the program in Welles Village, which Grant said is great for the first year.

Robins said the program is “a great success” and is reaching even more children than originally expected. “Hopefully, we'll be able to keep running it,” Robins said. “There are also newly-eligible areas in Glastonbury for open sites.”

Future expansion of the program, Robins added, will also see No Kid Hungry seeking the advice and help of Peace Jam.
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