New Milford starts summer lunch program for kids in need
NEW MILFORD — About 840 students in New Milford get a free or reduced lunch during the school year and just as many are on the cusp of qualifying.
These lunches could be the only thing those students eat each day. For years, school board member Angela Chastain worried about what happens to those students when school is out of session.
This summer, they’ll continue to get a free daily meal with the fully launched Summer Lunch Bunch program. “That need doesn’t go away in the summer,” Chastain said.
Beginning July 2, registered families can pick up free lunches every weekday from 7 to 9 a.m. until Aug. 29 at the school administration building, at 50 East St. Weekend lunch packs through the Connecticut Food Pantry will be provided on Fridays to offer two days of nonperishable food, which will also be brought to daycares.
Anyone in need can sign up for the program or learn more at camellascupboard
The lunch program is solely a community effort and not part of the End Hunger Connecticut program, which uses federal money. New Milford doesn’t qualify for the program, which requires participating towns to have at least 50 percent of their students on free or reduced lunches.
About 44 percent of New Milford’s 3,800 students are in need, Chastain said. She’s seen the number of students on free and reduced lunches nearly double from 12 to 22 percent since she came to town in 2006. She still believes that estimate is lower than the actual number and missing families who don’t know they qualify, don’t speak English or might not want to participate for personal reasons.
“I’ve felt for the past couple years, hunger in New Milford is underrepresented,” Chastain said.
She hopes the unemployed and underemployed families will benefit from the program. She added the 55 participants that signed up since the program opened this week is indicative of the need.
The program is supported by both the town and school administrations, as well as several community organizations, including the United Way, the Youth Agency, the New Milford Clergy Association, the Northwestern Connecticut Community Culinary School and MVP-SOS.
Loaves and Fishes ran a smaller-scale program with Social Services last year, providing lunches to 14 families throughout July and August. Both organizations are involved in this program and Loaves and Fishes has committed to making 25 lunches daily.
Each lunch includes a sandwich, fruit, drink, a sweet treat and a salty snack.
Monetary and food donations are being accepted at the Mayor’s Office or people can donate or purchase food online through the program’s website. Lunch meat, bread and fruit are especially needed because those items spoil each week.