By SHERIDAN ROY
Southington’s soup kitchen, Bread for Life, is continuing its mission of leaving no one hungry in Southington. The 2019 summer lunch program began on Monday, June 24, and there is no registration required for youth to get a complimentary lunch—just show up, and receive your meal.
“Twenty-two percent of kids in Southington Public Schools are eligible for the free or reduced school meal program,” said BFL executive director Donna Ayer. “That gets them through the school year, but when they’re on vacation, we are concerned about how they will get their meals.”
During the summer lunch program, BFL volunteers travel to two public locations—Wheeler Village and Summerbrook Apartments—Monday to Thursday from 12 to 1 p.m. They bring sandwiches, fresh fruit and snacks.
Youth and teens in those locations, and any other youth from around the town of Southington who can get to those locations, are provided with a free lunch, no questions asked.
“Hunger doesn’t take a vacation,” said Ayer. “We want to make sure Southington youth are provided for.”
Ayer said BFL recently did a survey with the Board of Education asking parents what their children do over the summer when they don’t have access to the free or reduced lunch program. Many were struggling to make ends meet.
“We received a letter from a single mom of four who receive breakfast and lunch in school,” said Ayer. “She said she doesn’t have that money in her budget over the summer, so the program is a huge help for the family, and we are happy to do it.”
BFL volunteers do more than simply show up and drop off a lunch for the kids. They come equipped with activities and games, and interact with the children for that lunch hour each day.
“It’s like a mini-day-camp,” Ayer said. On opening day of the 2019 summer lunch program at Summerbrook Apartments, more than a dozen children gathered to eat lunch, color in coloring books and play on the nearby swing set.
There are planned activities throughout the summer including face painting, cupcake decorating, yoga, art projects, magicians and other special guests and more.
About 80 lunches are made fresh daily in the BFL kitchen by volunteers. They get split between the two public locations and a handful of closed locations that BFL also serves.
The community has an opportunity to get involved in the program by donating items or volunteering to help. Teens are encouraged to volunteer through the Southington Youth Department’s youth volunteer program.
“The summer lunch program is awesome—it’s one of the best experiences to be had through the youth volunteer program,” said John Sperduti from the youth services department. “It’s very gratifying knowing you’re doing something for the community.”
The youth being served often remember the return volunteers, and form relationships with them over the summer.
“They know you by name, and get excited when they see you coming,” said Sperduti.
The youth department is still seeking additional volunteers. Call (860) 276-6281 to get involved.