MERIDEN — Isaiah Gonzalez, 4, sat on a blanket, sipping his TruMoo chocolate milk in the shade. His aunt brought him to Columbus Park Wednesday for a free lunch. He sat among dozens of other children dining in the park.
New Opportunities of Greater Meriden will serve free lunches at nine locations across the city throughout the summer.
The group distributes about 55 lunches every day. Low income families or parents who are unemployed come with their children to receive the free lunches, said Frances Alemar, who was serving lunches at Columbus Park Wednesday.
“It shows that Meriden cares about their children, about them being healthy,” Stephanie Gonzalez, 13, said. She went to the park to get a lunch with her sister Kimberly, 10.
Along with serving lunches, Alemar also brought along Frisbees, jump ropes and hula hoops for the children to play with. They ran around with the toys until it was time to line up for lunch. Alemar started handing out food precisely at 12:30 and the children swarmed.
The lunches consist of a sandwich, juice, chocolate milk and applesauce. Children need to stay at the park to eat. They aren’t allowed to leave with the food. Parents laid out blankets for children to sit and enjoy their lunch.
“People need these services, but they don’t know they exist,” Alemar said.
Children and teenagers 18 and under are welcome to a free lunch at any of the locations. The Free Summer Meal program runs Monday-Friday until Aug. 19.
The locations serving lunch are Columbus Park, Lewis Avenue, 12:30 p.m.; Hanover and South First, 249 Hanover St., 12:15 p.m.; Mills Memorial Apartments, 144 Pratt St., 12 p.m.; First Christian Charismatic Church, 244 Cook Ave., 11:30 a.m.; Bronson Park, 223 Cook Ave., 12:10 p.m.; City Park, corner of Park and Franklin, 12:30 p.m.; New Gethsemane Deliverance Church, 220 Colony St., 11:30 p.m.; Venture Academy, 883 Paddock Ave. rear of Rushford, 12 p.m.; Barnside Park, 33 Wharton Brook Drive Wallingford, 11:30 a.m.
The locations serving breakfast are the Meriden Boys and Girls Club, 15 Lincoln St., 8:30 a.m.; First Christian Charismatic Church, 8:10 a.m.; and Venture Academy, 8 a.m.
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