Most kids cannot wait until school lets out. However, there is a growing number of children who dread summer break, because they do not know where their next meal is coming from. In New Haven, so many students qualify for free and reduced lunch, that the entire district eats for free.
Krima Byrd, an employee of the New Haven Public Schools district, knows it is critical that the Summer Meals Program, a means to bring lunches to neighborhoods around the city, reaches as many kids as possible. Byrd explains, "I think we'd have a lot of hungry kids if we didn't have the summer program." Byrd has been making sure the city's food truck runs efficiently and on schedule. These food trucks provide nutritious options like sandwiches, fresh fruit, juice, milk and salads.
These meal programs are not exclusive to New Haven - programs like this are running all across the state. Volunteers like Shannon Robins, of End Hunger Connecticut, have been fanning out to spread the word to as many families as possible by leaving pamphlets and fliers in local businesses. "We're pounding the pavement as we call it," says Dawn Crayco of End Hunger Connecticut. On the first day of summer vacation in Putnam, they kicked off the program at the public library.
Food services director for Putnam Public Schools, Barry Sbordy, explains that one-third of the kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch in Putnam take advantage of the Summer Meals Program last year - and he wants to see an increase.
According to Crayco, 20 percent of families in Connecticut are suffering from something called food hardship: families who struggle throughout the month with the ability to purchase food. And it stretches into all corners of the state, not just urban areas.
Kids don't need to apply for the Summer Meal Program. All you need to do is show up at a location. To find out where the summer food program is operating near you, check out ctsummerfood.org.