SOUTHINGTON — A food drive Saturday will benefit Bread for Life’s expanding summer lunch program.
Non-perishable foods collected this weekend will go to children who receive free meals at four locations. The drive is scheduled for 8:30 to 11 a.m. at 31 Vermont Ave.
Donna Ayer, Bread for Life executive director, said the summer program is for children who receive free or reduced price lunches during the school year.
“Just because there’s no school doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be lunch for kids,” Ayer said.
Last year the group provided nearly 2,000 summer lunches.
Bread for Life has served children at the Summer Brook and Wheeler Village apartments for several years. Last year, lunches were also provided to children who qualified at YMCA Camp Sloper. A fourth site, the Southington Public Schools’ Alta summer school program, was added this year.
Volunteers and teens bring the meals to the apartment complexes, play with the children and have entertainment or treats such as an ice cream truck, a clown or a YMCA class.
Ayer said having to buy lunches for children during the summer can be a financial burden for some struggling families.
“(A Summer Brook) mom said to us, ‘I don’t have a food budget because they get free breakfast and free lunch at school,’” Ayer said. “It helps those families that don’t know where they’re going to get the money. It’s huge.”
Mark Pooler, YMCA operations director, said the partnership with Bread for Life serves nearly 40 campers who received camp scholarships this year.
“We’re helping out those families in need (so they don’t) have to worry about groceries and going out shopping for lunches,” Pooler said. “Families who have that same concern, same need during the school year are taken care of during the summer time.”
Meals provided by Bread for Life are placed discretely in coolers for children so that it’s not clear who’s receiving a free lunch.
“We don’t want kids to feel there’s an X on their back that they can’t afford lunch,” Pooler said.
Through donations from a group of local mothers, Bread for Life is able to provide fresh fruit with its lunches.
“We have some amazing moms in town that we affectionately call the ‘fruit ladies,’” Ayer said.
Bread for Life is looking to collect individually packaged chips, cookies, pretzels, fruit snacks or similar items, water bottles, juice boxes, sandwich sized zip lock bags, and individually packaged cereal boxes.