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Food For Kids Summer Lunch Program helps feed the community

Food insecurity affects 1 in 8 families in America. That’s more than 12% of all households in the country! This summer, Washingtonville is continuing its efforts to address food insecurity on the local front by assisting neighbors in need through its Food For Kids Summer Lunch Program. The program provides meals for hundreds of children throughout the district each week, as well as snack packs to last through the weekends. 

Girl and boy with bags packing meals

The Food for Kids program has been a wonderful collaboration between our district and a number of local organizations whose generosity – in donations, volunteerism, or both – is really what propels us forward, allowing us not only to achieve our goals, but continue to expand them,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Barbara Quinn.

Donations are received from area churches, food pantries, private donors, and other sources. Food donations are sorted, prepared, bagged, and put into delivery boxes by volunteers at the High School three days a week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Monday and Wednesday boxes include meals for Tuesday and Thursday, and the Friday deliveries include a weekend’s worth of snack items. Boxes are then distributed from three spots in the community: Little Britain Elementary School, Washingtonville Village Hall, and Mountain Lodge Firehouse.

“Today we sent out 240 lunches, and even some additional meals,” said volunteer Christine Frisbee, who was one of a couple dozen school and community volunteers packing bags in the High School cafeteria on a recent July morning. “We probably made a total of 300 meals today and 200-plus snack bags.”

Teachers with students packing meals

The goal of the program is to help ensure that Washingtonville students have healthy lunches throughout the summer months. The hundreds of meals that head out of the Washingtonville High School parking lot every other day represent big growth from 2015, when the program was first inspired by a simple act of kindness.

“That summer, some of the women from the Catholic church noticed the kids playing in the town park, and we just decided to ask them if they’d brought their lunches with them,” said volunteer Jane Hosford. “When some said they didn't, we started out feeding those 15 to 20 kids. We were making hot dogs and putting little lunches together that we would bring over and hand out, so they had something during the day when their parents weren't home.”

In the fall of the same year, Washingtonville launched its Food for Kids Weekend Backpack program at Taft Elementary, which sends students in need home with a weekend’s worth of healthy snacks during the school year. That program is alive and well today, and covers all five district schools.

“We average somewhere around 150 backpacks a weekend throughout the school year,” said Ms. Frisbee. “When there are long periods off – holidays, spring break – the food pantry will give us more food so that we can send home food for the whole week.”

Volunteers pack boxes with meals

Also in 2015, Mrs. Quinn – who was then the Taft Elementary principal – was approached by concerned families whose students relied on the breakfasts and lunches provided by the school during the year, but were worried about the summertime.  

“That’s when the summer lunch program really came to be,” said Ms. Hosford. “The district adopted the program in the summer of 2016 and it’s been growing ever since.”

Much of that growth is thanks to the hard work of the many volunteers who show up to keep the deliveries coming! 

“Our volunteers are incredible. They come from all over the community,” said Ms. Quinn. “From our school families, our neighbors, our faculty and staff; people are always asking when they can come help, how they can help. They bring a friend along, and so on. That’s how it’s grown, by people looking for something meaningful to do for their community.”

Ms. Frisbee said her daughter, Washingtonville grad Mikayla Frisbee, enjoys coming back from her communications studies at the College of St. Rose in the summer and joining her to lend a hand to the cause.

“Before this program, I never realized how much food disparity and need there was in our community,” said Mikayla. “This really opened my eyes to all of those who are in need, even in my own grade. I like giving back, and volunteering is a lot of fun.”

The Food For Kids Summer Lunch Program continues through August 12. Volunteers for this and other food-related programs during the school year are always welcome. If you are interested in helping out, please contact the district office for more information.