WESTFIELD-Every year the need increases to provide free lunches for young people during the summer months, according to Kellie Brown, director of operations at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield.
“We expect to serve 27,000 individual meals to kids, ages 2.9 to 18, this summer which will be 1,500 more than last year,” said Brown, adding that a postcard was recently distributed to every household in the city so that families are aware of the free lunch program that is coordinated by the Boys and Girls Club.
“All meals follow the guidelines of the Massachusetts Department of Education,” said Brown, noting lunches include milk, a main component which can range from sandwiches to a hot meal including hamburgers or hot dogs, fruit, vegetable, and cookie or sorbet.
The program is sponsored by the state Department of Education and a strict guideline notes that the child has to consume the meal on-site.
“Every meal is placed into the child’s hand, not a parent’s hand,” said Brown. “When summer hits it can be a hardship for some families to provide both breakfast and lunch and we want to alleviate that situation. Our goal is to ensure that every child in the city has a healthy lunch.”
Program sponsors also include the United States Department of Agriculture, Project Bread, and No Kid Hungry.
Beginning June 24 through mid-August, several sites will be offering the meals and there are no eligibility requirements or questions asked.
The free picnic lunches will be available rain or shine at:
- Colonial Pine Acres, 50 Southampton Road, from 11:30 a.m. – noon.
- Edgewood Apartments, 134 Union St., from 11:30 a.m. – noon.
- Powdermill Village Apartments, 126 Union St., from 12:05 – 12:35 p.m.
- Sadie Knox Spray Park, 50 Prospect St., 12:15 – 12:45 p.m.
- Westfield Middle School, 30 West Silver St., from 12:30 – 1 p.m.
- Hubbard Street Spray Park, Hubbard Street, 12:50 – 1:30 p.m.
- Chapman Playground, 50 St. Paul St., 1 – 1:30 p.m.
In addition, the Episcopal Church of the Atonement on Court Street will host the free lunch program on Thursdays from 12:45 – 1:30 p.m. in conjunction with the weekly farmers’ market.
Lastly, the program wraps up with lunches served at the Boys and Girls Club on Aug. 26-28 from 12:30 – 1 p.m.
Children attending the city’s park locations will also be able to participate in games and activities hosted by members of the Park and Recreation Department.
A highlight of the summer program will be the awarding of a “golden ticket” each day at the participating sites. One golden ticket at each site will be packed inside a lunch and the child who turns in the ticket will receive an age-appropriate scholastic reading book.
“We know there can be a summer learning loss for kids so because the book is a prize we hope the child is more apt to read it,” said Brown.
C + S Wholesale Grocers is also participating in the summer lunch program through its No Kid Hungry grant which provides incentives to keep kids active, according to Brown.
“We will have balls, hula hoops and jump ropes to give away through the grant,” said Brown.
For more information on the free lunch program, call the Boys and Girls Club at (413) 562-2301 or visit bgcwestfield.org.