Summer lunch programs kick off

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MANCHESTER — With the school year concluded and school-provided meals also coming to an end, summer lunch programs supported by community organizations are ramping up to help needy families across the region.

The Arlington/Sandgate/Sunderland Summer Lunch Program, overseen by the Federated Church of East Arlington, returned last week, and the Interfaith Council of the Northshire's Kids Summer Lunch Program returned this Thursday. A new, third initiative — a partnership between the nonprofit Stratton Foundation and Stratton Mountain Resort — hopes to launch by July 1.

Karen Allen, program director for Northshire program, said she expects the initiative to serve more children this summer than it ever has in its nearly 20-year history. The program generally serves about 175 to 200 children across three different distribution sites. This summer, those locations are the Manchester Public Safety Facility behind Town Hall, the Mettawee Community School in West Pawlet and the Danby Masonic Lodge.

Allen said the program — generally aimed at children who receive free or reduced lunches at school, though it will feed anyone who signs up — provides grocery items for breakfast and lunch, largely sourced from Aldi grocery store. It also provides cards that can be redeemed for eggs and milk at Stewart's convenience stores.

The program, which runs for 10 weeks, does not receive any federal or state support, relying instead on donations from the community. Donations can be mailed to the Dorset Church, P.O. Box 263 in Dorset. More information can be obtained by emailing Karen Allen at famallen4@comcast.net.

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Rev. Kathy Clark, pastor of the Federated Church of East Arlington, said the program that serves Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland is providing groceries this summer for 105 children from 38 households. This year, families pick up bags from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at Arlington Memorial High School.

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Some of the food for the program, which is entering its 12th year, will come from the newly revitalized community garden at the Yellow Barn property in Arlington once it starts yielding produce, Clark said.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Stratton Mountain Resort partnered with the Stratton Foundation to distribute about 12,000 meals through schools and other organizations to local families in need. For a second wave, organizers have set their sights on providing lunches for at least six weeks this summer for children who attend Flood Brook School in Londonderry and schools in the Windham Central Supervisory Union, according to Tammy Mosher, executive director of the Stratton Foundation.

The effort is still in the planning phase, though families already are signing up, Mosher said. Organizers have obtained menus used by the schools during the school year and intend to prepare similar offerings.

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Stratton Mountain Resort is bringing on additional staff for the initiative and plans to use its vehicles to make deliveries, according to Mosher.

Jan Giejda, Stratton Mountain Resort's vice president of hospitality, who is managing the initiative with Mosher, said the project is expected to serve 100 to 300 children. Organizers are "really pushing" for the July 1 starting date because "we don't want these children to go without food," he said.

Families interested in signing up for the program can email info@strattonfoundation.org.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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