Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Kids Flocking for Free Meals

Here's something that's working well in Bristol: the summer breakfast and lunch program.
Thanks to a big push from the Bristol Community Organization (that's their logo to the left), the number of kids eating breakfast and lunch through the USDA program has skyrocketed this summer over last year's paltry figures.
Mostly, it seems it's due to moving the meals from inside O'Connell School on Park Street to the Rockwell Park pavillion. There's also been a real effort to raise awareness among kids and parents about the free meals.
I was over at the park the other day and it was positively teeming with kids of all sizes, playing on the playground, skating at the skatepark and swimming in the pool. Inside the pavillion, two nice women sat behind a couple of tables filled with sandwiches, fruit, fruit juice and milk. There's a decent assortment of sandwiches and the fruit was pears and nectarines that looked good. Kids can have a juice and a milk with their sandwiches and fruit.
The women, Elizabeth and Karen Welch (Karen is Elizabeth's mom) made sure to restock the food and drinks from a nearby cooler. They seemed to know a lot of the kids who came to eat, too.
Rockwell Park is considered an open site for the summer meals program. That means there's enough poverty in the neighborhood that everyone is qualified. No one needs to show any ID or register in advance. Just show up, kids, and chow down. It's really that simple.
The food isn't for adults and it's to be eaten at the site, so there's not much room for abuse. This is giving healthy food to kids who are busy playing (and some are working) in the park. Kids need it to grow their bodies and their brains and to stay healthy and happy. (Ever notice how skipping a meal makes you cranky?)
These little dynamos need fuel to keep going and I'm really glad they've got it.
Another open site in town is at Cambridge Park, which is also showing an increase in participation this year.
For the record, BCO doesn't run the program anymore, but the organization has stayed involved out of an interest in keeping kids fed. Whitsons, a school food service company, does run it and BCO and End Hunger Connecticut!, a non-profit organization, worked to organize the sites and are doing what they can to get the word out.
I wrote about this for The Bristol Press ( but I don't think it's run yet.

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