Norwalk, CT - Congressman Jim Himes, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Dr. Manuel Rivera joined volunteers and community advocates at Tracey Elementary School to see Norwalk’s summer meals program in action.
“School meal programs allow our children and young adults to get the nutrition they need while they’re in school during the year, but only a quarter of students continue to receive meals during the summer,” Himes said. “Thank you to End Hunger CT!, Share Our Strength, and the Norwalk Public Schools for coordinating this event and working together to increase participation in this critical program over the summer months. I am honored to be a part of our community’s strong effort to end childhood hunger here in Southwestern Connecticut.”
The summer meals programs provide nutritious, free meals and snacks to kids and teens, 18 years of age and younger, all summer long. There are hundreds of locations across Connecticut that make free meals and snacks available to all kids and teens during the summer months. Many summer meals locations also offer recreational activities and entertainment to ensure participants enjoy some summer fun while eating a nutritious meal.
Norwalk has four “open” summer meals sites – Brien McMahon High School, Brookside Elementary School, Columbus Elementary School and Tracey Elementary School – all of which are offering free nutritious lunches and breakfasts this year. Anyone age 18 or under can come and eat at these sites.
“In coordinating the 2014 Summer Meals Program in Norwalk, we used an approach called “collective impact” wherein a group of diverse organizations come together to solve a complex social issue”, said Ruthann Walsh, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Pepperidge Farm, Inc. “We convened representatives from the Norwalk business sector, Norwalk public school, providers, and others to determine how to secure funds for summer meals and how to be sure the meals were reaching the children in need. We put together a plan quickly, effectively and now 7,500 meals are being served each week to Norwalk’s children and in more sites than last year.”
Connecticut ranks fourth in the nation for the number of children participating in free summer meals programs yet only 26.4% of low income children in Connecticut who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year participated in summer meals programs last year. The Connecticut No Kid Hungry campaign, a partnership of End Hunger Connecticut!, a statewide anti-hunger and food security organization, with headquarters in Hartford and Share Our Strength®, a national nonprofit working to end childhood hunger, and its partners aim to increase participation in Connecticut’s 2014 free summer meals programs by 10% over 2013.
“This event is symbolic of the community collaboration that occurred this year to ensure there are fun and safe places in Norwalk for kids to go for healthy meals when school is out,” said Lucy Nolan, Executive Director of End Hunger CT! “By creating partnerships between federal, state, and local officials with organizations that care for and care about the health and well-being of children, we can make sure no kid goes hungry in CT over the summer.”
Connecticut’s summer meals programs are funded through the United States Department of Agriculture and administered by the CT State Department of Education. Norwalk summer meals are sponsored by Norwalk Public Schools. Organizations involved in the Norwalk summer meals collaborative include; Pepperidge Farm, Norwalk Public Schools, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Person to Person, ACHIEVE, and the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County.
To find a free summer meals site near you, visit www.ctsummerfood.org, call toll free 2-1-1 or text ‘CTMeals’ to 877-877.