Summer Food Program Filling Nutrition Gap

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A summer food program is filling the nutrition gap while school is out.

It’s happening all over the state, but one town in particular is seeing significant progress in the number of children and teens they’re feeding.

In East Hartford about 1,5000 meals are served each day during the summer, providing both children and teens with free breakfast and free lunch.

Students can choose from 12 sites from across the town.

There’s cereal, crackers, apples and oranges; everything you need for a nutritious breakfast, a breakfast that some children would otherwise not have during the summer months.

“There’s such a need in East Hartford especially, we see it year after year. So with outreach and End Hunger Connecticut we’ve been able to get more kids to come to the program and really utilize them,” said East Hartford Food Services Director Shari-Lynn Staeb.

In Connecticut 150,000 students rely on free or reduced priced meals during the school year, but then summer hits.

Only a quarter of those students continue participation in a summer meal program. That’s where End Hunger Connecticut steps in.

“What we really try to do is integrate this federal summer meal program into activities that are going on throughout the communities,’ said Dawn Crayco, who with End Hunger Connecticut.

“This program here at Norris School integrates with the YMCA and their power academy,” said Staeb.

The 100 children taking part in the program get free breakfast, free lunch and a broad range of social activities that rile them up for the day. Participation has skyrocketed.

Kenya Knighton is the mother of a 6-year-old who takes part of the program. She said it helps financially.

“It helps. It helps plus he really likes to eat at school instead of at home with his friends.”

This is a no-questions-asked food program. Children and teens from not only East Hartford but across the entire state of Connecticut can walk into any site five days a week and get free meals.

“End Hunger Connecticut promotes more than 400 sites in Connecticut where any kid can go for a free meal,” said Crayco. “Connecticut actually does pretty well when you look at some of the other states. We’re ranked 4th best in the nation for that but we’re not settling for 4th best,” said Crayco.

“Hopefully through all of that they can focus on learning and on things,” said Staeb.

That way students don’t have to focus on hunger.

The program is federally funded. You can click here for more information.

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