School is out, summer is here, and once again Project Bread is gearing up to award over $90,000 in incentive grants that serve 257 local Summer Food Service Programs across the state in 28 communities, including Methuen.
These programs are part of the 877 sites that will provide free, nutritious meals to area children during the summer. The Methuen award includes $3,000 to Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, which operates the Merrimack Valley Catholic Basketball Association and is a site for the first time this year.
Many children rely on school meals, like breakfast and lunch, to provide them with the wholesome, nutritious food they need. In the summer months, these children need another source of food in order to remain healthy and return to school in the fall ready to learn. All meals are free to children and youths 18 years and under, no registration or sign-up necessary.
Summer meals programs tend to be less well known than school meals. That’s because they are micro community programs, held at schools, parks, swimming pools, playgrounds, and other community organizations. But they can have a big impact on a child’s health and a family’s food budget.
“Project Bread invests in these summer food programs,” said Ellen Parker, executive director, “because summer is a crucial time for children to grow, socialize, and learn in preparation for the next school year. We strengthen these programs because they provide a local, safe, community solution to what out-of-school kids can do over the long summer days. We know that when children and teens get a healthy breakfast and lunch at a summer food site, their parents have more money for a nutritious meal at night.”
Funded by the USDA, which provides for the food, the Summer Food Service Program is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. However, these programs need supplemental funds to expand and implement programming that is fun and safe for kids, and keeps them coming back.
John Vitulli, the director of the Merrimack Valley Catholic Basketball Association, explains how the grant will impact the program: “We’re using the grant from Project Bread to buy sporting equipment, games, and crafts to keep the kids occupied.” Vitulli continued, “this is the first year we are doing this and we’re very excited about it and I know the kids are looking forward to this new food and fun program.”
With Project Bread’s funds, program directors like Vitulli are able to buy food storage and preparation equipment, sports or arts and crafts equipment, even books — whatever they need to enrich the programming and increase the number of children their program serves.
Throughout the state, Project Bread is providing over 30 summer grants, amounting to more than $90,000. The support is given to a wide range of local organizations in Boston, East Boston, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, Fall River, Fitchburg, Gardner, Gloucester, Haverhill, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, Peabody, Randolph, Revere, Salem, Southbridge, Springfield, Taunton, Waltham, Weymouth, Wareham, West Barnstable, Westfield, and Woburn.
Some sites are opening mid June; others will be open by July 1 and all tend to run until mid August. Parents, guardians, and teens can get a complete list of programs in the Methuen area by calling Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or by going to www.projectbread.org/summermeals.
“The Summer Food Service Program is an important resource for families,” said Parker of Project Bread, “and we want to make it easy for them to benefit from it.”
About Project Bread
As the state’s leading antihunger organization, Project Bread is dedicated to alleviating, preventing, and ultimately ending hunger in Massachusetts. Through The Walk for Hunger, the oldest continual pledge walk in the country, and other sources, Project Bread provides millions of dollars each year in privately donated funds to support hunger relief through emergency programs, schools, community health centers, farmers’ markets, community suppers, home care organizations, and other programs that protect the individual and strengthen our community food security. For more information, visit www.projectbread.org.