NAUGATUCK — The community is coming together to ensure no child goes hungry over the summer.
A federally-funded free summer meals program, which serves lunch at no cost to children 18 years old and under, started Monday in the borough. This is the sixth year the program has run in Naugatuck, and the need has grown substantially since 2010.
Kate Murphy, food services director for Sodexo, said the program started in 2010 at one location and served 367 during 10 days. Last year, she said, the program operated at 10 locations around Naugatuck and served 14,943 lunches and 700 breakfasts over 37 days.
“There is a huge need for children during the summer time to get meals. We have almost 50 percent of the students within the (school) district that are on free or reduced meals. So now that school is out they don’t have the resource of lunches anymore. We continue this program throughout the summer so kids could come and get a healthy meal and do some physical activity during the summer,” said Murphy, who oversees the program.
There are nine locations this year in Naugatuck where children can get as meal. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Andrew Avenue Elementary School, Hop Brook Elementary School, Salem Elementary School, Legion Field, Baummers Pond, Linden Park and the Naugatuck YMCA. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. at Central Avenue School and Naugatuck High School. The meals are available on weekdays through Aug. 19.
“The only obstacle we have is getting word out. Believe it or not we have been doing this since 2010 and people still do not know,” Murphy said.
Volunteers came together last Friday morning at the Board of Education offices on Rubber Avenue to kick off an awareness campaign about the meals program. After a brief meeting, the volunteers hit the streets to hand out flyers and information on the program.
The campaign and start of the meals program coincided with the release of a food resource guide, “Food When You Need It,” compiled by the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.
The resource guide lists a variety of information on food programs, including the locations and guidelines for local food pantries, locations of senior meal programs, and the guidelines for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. The guide is available online at www.unitedwaynaugatuck.org.
“This guide will help our residents find food resources. If you can’t get to the food bank here in town or in Beacon Falls, you can find other food banks that will service Naugatuck and Beacon Falls residents,” United Way Executive Director Lisa Shappy said.