Summer lunch program gears up to feed kids

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MANCHESTER — Thousands of children in Bennington County receive free or reduced-cost meals in school. When summer vacation comes around, various groups help the children continue to eat well by providing free food.

The Arlington Area Summer Lunch Program, coordinated by the Federated Church of East Arlington, is returning on June 18. Two days later, the Interfaith Council of the Northshire's Kids Summer Lunch Program also will be back.

The 10-week annual programs provide a week's worth of lunches and snacks to pre-selected children.

The Arlington Area program, which serves children in Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland, distributes food packages at Fisher Elementary School every Tuesday. The Interfaith Council does theirs every Thursday at three sites: the Manchester Town Hall, Mettawee Community School and Danby Masonic Hall.

Recipients, who are between preschool- and high school-age, are invited by their schools to sign up for the programs each May.

"These kids receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school," said Karen Allen, program director of the Interfaith Council's Kids Summer Lunch Program. "In some cases, these may be their only meals of the day."

Her organization started the program in 2004 after seeing that some local families needed help providing their children with nutritious meals during the summer school break.

The Arlington Area program was established about five years later by several churches in Arlington, Sandgate and Manchester, said Sandra Grover, secretary at the Federated Church of East Arlington.

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The Interfaith Council sees 175 to 200 participants among its three sites each year, whereas the Arlington Area serves around 70.

Participants get about seven items in their weekly package, including bread, a filler such as peanut butter and jelly or hot dogs, as well as fresh fruit, yogurt and a can of pasta or soup.

"We have four menus that we rotate," said Linda Drunsic, a volunteer who is in charge of ordering food for the Interfaith Council's program.

Within the first few weeks of reopening this summer, Allen said, they plan to add breakfast items to the menus.

The Arlington Area program, meanwhile, hopes to give children more fresh fruits and vegetables, including produce donated by Clear Brook Farm in Shaftsbury.

On June 16, at a 10 a.m. ecumenical service at the Grange Pavilion in West Arlington, the program will be accepting donations, including "individually wrapped healthy snacks" such as granola bars, Grover said.

Both summer lunch programs have existed through private donations and grants, as well as the help of volunteers. They don't receive any state or federal funding.

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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