With school out and summer in full swing, children that receive free or reduced breakfast and lunches during the school year might have been out of a meal if it wasn’t for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsored by the East Boston YMCA.
Many children in Eastie depend on school breakfast and lunches as their main source of nutrition. For many of these young kids it becomes more difficult to get the nutritious foods they need to grow healthy and strong during the summer.
This year, through a $90,000 grant from Walmart’s Summer Giving Campaign, the YMCA’s summer food locations will be provided with 10 lap-tops each to allow staff to download educational activities and curriculum for approximately 1400 children participating in the SFSP in Eastie. In addition to the East Boston Y, other Y sites receiving laptops include Dorchester, Roxbury, Hyde Park, Wang (Chinatown), Oak Square (Brighton), Huntington Ave. and Woburn.
“The SFSP is a god-send for the thousands of young people who depend on school meals for most of the year. Without this program, many of these children would lack the nutritious foods they need for their healthy development during the summer months,” said East Boston Y Executive Director Joey Cuzzi. “This year, thanks to Walmart’s generous donation, children who participate in the program will receive healthy food and enriching educational activities to engage their minds.”
Cuzzi said the Y organizes eight food service sites in Eastie where children receive free breakfast, lunch or snacks. In addition to distributing meals, each site offers recreational activities for the children after they have their lunch or snack.
The program operates Monday- Friday from June 27 – September 2. This year’s SFPS sites are East Boston Y, 215 Bremen Street; East Boston Y 54 Ashley Street; East Boston Central Catholic; Paris Street Community Center; Orient Heights Community Center; Brandywine Village; Piers Park Sailing Center; and Salesian Boys and Girls Club.
Cuzzi said that when the SFSP ends in September, the lap-tops purchased through the Walmart grant will be used by students participating in the East Boston Y’s after-school enrichment programs.
In addition to the weekday program, this summer the East Boston Y will also be offering meals specifically for teen programs on the weekends. The Y will be offering the SFSP on Saturday and Sunday evenings from July 9-August 28 during free weekend teen drop-in nights with assistance of a $5,000 grant from Project Bread.
Overall, Project Bread is supporting three Y teen programs for a total grant award of $15,000, with each location receiving $5,000 for supplies needed to manage the distribution of food and to encourage teens to participate.
“This is the first time that evening Y teen programs will be free food sites,” said Y Program Administrator Gail Klimas, “We’re very excited that the SFSP has recognized that teens also may need this nutritional support and the Y is the place to find it.”
Last year, the Eastie SFSP locations served more than 63,000 healthy snacks and meals to local young people and this year the need is expected to be higher.
Any child 18 years of age or under is eligible for the free food program. For more information, call the YMCA at 617-569-9622; Project Bread Food Source Line at 1-800-645-8333 or log onto www.ymcaboston.org/eastboston.