Friday, April 8, 2016

Local groups trying to feed hungry children this summer - By Michelle Libby

Although no final decisions have been made, details are underway for a free lunch program for children in Windham and Raymond to be held at Dundee Park this summer. Representatives from Preble Resource Center as well as Linda Brooks from Windham Park and Recreation, Marge Govoni and Michelle Jordan from the backpack program, Jeanne Reilly, director of school nutrition and Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro, school nutrition and wellness coordinator, and backpack program coordinator, were all in attendance. 

The group is working with budget constraints, regulations on where the site can be located and finding a sponsor who will provide the lunches daily, Monday through Friday. 

“It shouldn’t be this hard to feed hungry kids,” said volunteer coordinator Jordan. 

Free lunches have been provided before in Windham, but the program cancelled half way through the summer for lack of interest. The committee believes that having it at Dundee Park in Windham, would provide a chance for families and children to get exercise, fresh air and a free lunch. 

On Wednesday, committee members were notified that they would be teaming up with Westbrook as the sponsor and the meals would be delivered inside the park off River Road. 

Families who qualify before the program begins will be given a free pass to Dundee Park, which is a $65 savings for the summer. The limited number of passes will be given to those who qualify for free or reduced price lunch or the backpack program, said Reilly. The lunches are available for anyone at the park between birth and 18 years of age. There is a limited supply, but back up options are available for those who are hungry. Each day is a different type of sandwich like turkey, ham and tuna. In the past, they have had cheese sticks or yogurt, fruit and milk. Pitchers of water were available. 

“Sometimes it’s the only meal they’re eating for the whole day,” said Jordan. 

The program will most likely start the week after school ends depending on when the sponsor starts their program site. “We’re going to be at the benefit of whoever we are going to work with,” said Govoni. time is generally an hour long and food must be eaten on site. If the weather is bad, Dundee Park may be closed, but other “open” sites will still be open for hungry children. 

The program is a priority for the committee. Information about the program will be sent home in school materials and posted on the Listserve for RSU14 once details are finalized.

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