BURRILLVILLE – It’s a statewide program funded through the federal government that aims to ensure that no child goes hungry over the summer, and it’s coming to Burrillville soon.
The town is launching a Summer Meals Program that will offer free lunches to anyone under the age of 18 Monday through Friday, from noon to 1 p.m. at the pavilion in front of the Jesse Smith Memorial Library.
The program is run through Healthy Kids, Healthy Community, Healthy Rhode Island, and sponsored in around a dozen communities across the state.
The initiative to bring the free lunches to Burriville started at the Jesse Smith Library, and quickly turned into a community-wide effort to keep students fed over the summer months. The Parks and Recreation Department put a call out for volunteers to serve the meals, contacting those involved in the Snack Pack program that runs during the school year, including members of Berean Baptist Church.
Next, the Burrillville School Department got involved, working with food vendor Aramark, who will be providing the lunches.
“We already sponsor the food program it was just a natural fit,” noted Business Manager Robin Kimatian.
“During the school year, nearly 76,000 Rhode Island students receive meals daily through the National School Lunch Program,” noted a release from the department. “In the summer months, those students and many more are at risk of going hungry.”
Around ten volunteers will be giving their time for the next several months to serve the lunches, with library staff running the show two days a week. A training session was held on Wednesday, June 27 to teach the group about food safety and rules on how to operate the weekday lunch handouts.
Kimatian organized the training event for those who stepped forward to help. “Some are parents,” she noted.
In Rhode Island, the program provides an average of over 300,000 meals during the summer at no cost, with help from around 25 sponsors.
The Burrillville program will run from Monday, July 9 through Friday, Aug. 24. Lunches will generally consist of a sandwich, fruit and a drink, and will comply with federally mandated nutrition guidelines. There is no eligibility requirement, or proof of residence requirement, but the lunches must be consumed at the pavilion and cannot be taken “to go.”
“They don’t have to be Burrillville residents and they don’t have to show that they’re eligible,” said Kimatian, noting that there’s no paperwork involved for the kids that take part.
Authorities across the state kicked off the program this week with events in Woonsocket and Newport. In Rhode Island, the program has been expanding each year, with new sites added in 2018, including the one in Burrillville. To find a program near you, dial 211 and ask about free summer lunches.