Summer time for many is an exciting time of year—schools are out, families take vacations, and someone somewhere is firing up the grill for an outdoor barbeque. But, not everyone looks forward to summer in the same way.
Some families right here in Southington worry about what they will do without the free or reduced cost lunches their children get from school, or dread the hot and humid upper-90-degrees days without an air conditioner. Southington’s soup kitchen Bread for Life, and Southington Community Services, are working hard to provide for families.
“When school is out, collections do tend to slow down,” said SCS executive director Janet Mellon, “and at the same time, we have more people coming in looking for items.”
Mellon said during the school year, many Southington schools hold food collection drives to donate items to SCS. Over summer vacation, the lack of those drives makes an impact at SCS.
“The biggest collection we ever had was last year when I bumped into the superintendent at an event, and I told him we were running low on many items,” she said. “He shared that with the whole district, and we had a huge collection. It just shows how powerful the schools are to us.”
Mellon said SCS programs ramp up starting July 1, so the team has just entered its busiest season. Applications open up for the back to school program and holiday programs, along with farmers market coupons for seniors.
SCS’s back to school program supplies qualified Southington students with new backpacks filled with school supplies and a $20 voucher to purchase additional needed supplies. Applications for Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets are available starting July 1 as well. For all three programs, proof of income and residency is required.
“We are always short on things like canned meals, children’s snacks, soups, cereal, and we’re short on canned vegetables right now,” said Mellon.
In a few weeks, on Aug. 3, the local Walmart on Queen Street will host the annual “stuff the bus” fundraiser at locations around the country to collect donated back to school items from shoppers. That program helps supply SCS with items for the back to school backpack give-away.
Over at Bread for Life, staff and volunteers face a similar decline in donations during the summer.
“About 75 to 80 percent of our donations come in between the months of November and December,” said executive director Donna Ayer. “It’s the holiday season and the giving spirit is there, but hunger doesn’t take a vacation.”
All of BFL’s regular programs, including Monday through Saturday lunches, dinners, homebound meal deliveries and senior center deliveries, continue through the summer. In addition, they provide about 90 children with lunches in the summer lunch program four days a week.
“So there is an increasing number of meals being made, while at the same time, donations slow down a bit,” said Ayer.
Some specific items BFL is currently low on include granola bars, juice (either individual boxes or liters), snacks (individual or larger sizes that can be divvyed up), and perishable snack items like Go-Gurts and cheese sticks for the summer lunch program. BFL also happily accepts grocery store gift cards so staff can shop for the items most needed.
BFL is located at 31 Vermont Ave., Southington. Visit southingtonbreadforlife.org or call (860) 276-8389 for more information about programs or how to help.
SCS is located at 91 Norton St., Plantsville. Call (860) 628-3761 to set up an appointment to qualify for back to school or holiday programs. The facility is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.