Summer Food Programs for Kids Continue to Grow in Connecticut
Bonnie Hutson has a lot of stories to tell about the importance of feeding children. She works for the West Haven Family Resource Center, which provides food for kids and families during the school year.
"This one day, the person who delivers the boxes came back into our offices and she was crying," Hutson said. "And I was like, what's wrong?"
A girl at Savin Rock Community School in West Haven saw a bag of food on a cart and grabbed it.
"She went over the cart and took one of the packages and held it to her heart," Hutson said. "And she said, like rocking this package of food, and she's going, 'I've been waiting for you! I've been waiting for this!'"
The number of Connecticut students eligible for free and reduced priced lunch has risen to nearly 40 percent. Many of those students rely on school for breakfast and lunch. When summer hits, their stomachs often go empty.
Hutson's organization is one of dozens of summer food programs across the state that provide food and nutritional education to needy families. But cities like West Haven and New Haven are also partnering with Connecticut Food Bank and other organizations to do a bit more.
"There's always been need for quality food and quality nutrition in some of the high poverty communities in New Haven," said Garth Harries, New Haven's school superintendent. "We think that need is increasing, at least somewhat, given the recession and other things of recent years."
Aside from offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, the district is now partnering with the food bank to allow a food truck to stop by the school sites to allow families to grab some groceries. This way, the families can stock up on food while the kids eat meals provided by the district.
There's also a backpack program where kids fill their backpacks with enough food for themselves for a weekend. And there's the GROW program, which requires families to take a 30-minute workshop to learn about nutrition before they board a food truck to get fresh produce and groceries.
It's all part of a wide effort to keep children and families in Connecticut fed during the summer.