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Summer lunch program provides New Haven and Hamden students with free breakfast and lunch

A student carrying a tray in the cafeteria
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A student carrying a tray in the cafeteria

New Haven and Hamden Public Schools are coming together to combat child hunger through their Free Summer Meals Program.

The program picks up where the free and reduced priced lunches leave off when the school year ends. Starting June 19, children under the age of 18 will have access to free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks – depending on the site.

Students do not need to be enrolled at a specific school or sign-in to get the meals. The only requirement is that students are under 18 and eat their meals on-site. In 2022, the summer program served around 5,000 students a day, according to New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.

Many low-income families rely on these programs during the school year to make sure their children have access to healthy meals.

During the summer thousands of students don't have access to the nourishment and support they normally have. And compared to national averages, there’s a lot of food insecurity in New Haven and Hamden, according to Elicker.

“There’s approximately one in eight households nationally that have children that are food insecure. And in the New Haven area it’s around one in four, one in five households,” Elicker said. “That’s 23%. Our young children really rely on a lot of the programming that already exists to get healthy food.”

Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett said New Haven and Hamden are priority cities in Connecticut. Aside from this summer program, Hamden also has several food pantries, both mobile and at community centers, that families can benefit from.

“We don’t want there to be hungry children during the summer because the school isn’t there for them,” Garrett said. “It’s really important that kids know where their next meal is coming from. Sometimes these meals are the only nutritious meals that a kid has to eat.”

The Hamden and New Haven summer program runs through Aug. 16. There will be an announcement of a statewide expansion of the program later this month, Julieth Callejas, executive director of End Hunger CT, said.

“Children are in need of food. Once the schools meals are done, they’re no longer getting the free breakfast and lunch from schools and parents are stressing out about how to feed their child,” Callejas said.

“With the summer meal programs we’re offering, it allows parents to know that they have a resource, a tool they can use to have food for their children.”

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.

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