Project Bread helps to fund summer food programs
SPRINGFIELD When school is out, kids who rely on free or reduced-price school meals need a safe place to go where they can have a healthy meal and some summer fun. That's why Project Bread is giving $198,950 in incentive grants to local Summer Food Service Programs across the state with $10,500 of that earmarked for Square One, Springfield Public Schools, and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.
"It's all part of an effort to help families cope with the economic crisis and keep their kids eating, growing, socializing, and learning," Project Bread Director Ellen Parker said.
The Summer Food Service Program is funded by the USDA and administered in the state by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. However, these programs need supplemental funds to expand and provide the kind of programming that really attracts local kids and keeps them coming over the summer.
In Springfield, Project Bread's $10,500 can be used to acquire food storage and preparation equipment, sports or arts and crafts equipment, even books whatever it takes to enrich the programming and increase the number of children a program serves.
Project Bread estimates that more than 51,000 low-income children across the state will benefit from these programs this year.
"In these historically hard times, we want parents to take advantage of these free summer food and fun programs," Parker said "Some programs provide a breakfast and lunch, some a lunch and nutritious snack each is a little different but whatever the structure is, it definitely saves the family the cost of those meals, which can really add up over the course of the summer. Parents can then apply that savings to a healthy evening meal for the entire family."
In addition, Square One, a leading childcare program in Springfield, and Springfield Public Schools both received a special grant to follow Project Bread's "Better Summer Meals" guidelines, which will feature fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low fat dairy products in the summer menus. Both sponsors also received grants to incorporate locally grown produce into the meals served at its summer sites.
"Springfield Public Schools is grateful to be receiving this grant once again this summer," Nike Areago, program director, said. "We're proud to participate in the 'Better Summer Meals' program. The fresh fruit from the local farm is delicious and the kids love it." Summer Food Programs in Springfield are expected to serve over 209,000 meals to Springfield children this summer at nearly 70 neighborhood meal sites.
Programs typically start at the end of June and run through mid August. No registration is necessary and sites are open to all children age 18 and under. "We're an antihunger organization that does not want to see kids sitting at home hungry and bored over the summer because school is out," Parker continued. "So we've made an investment in bringing food and fun together in as many neighborhood programs as possible that provide a really helpful service to family life."
For a complete listing of locations, dates, and times, parents and guardians are urged to call Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or visit www.meals4kids.org
New programs are forming in Springfield right now. A complete list of programs will be released after July 1.