2016-06-09 / Opinion

Summer Lunches for Kids and Teens

To the Editor:

Summer is in the air and school will soon be out for the year. While most children eagerly anticipate traveling on vacations with family and spending time with friends at the various enriching summer camps that Newport offers, there are many other children who will miss school. They will miss their friends who live in other neighborhoods. They will miss recess, breakfast and lunch, the after-school programs, and their favorite teachers and adult mentors.

For some children, school is the only safe, happy, nurturing and educational environment they know. Many live in single parent or double income homes and will be left on their own while their parents work long hours to provide the best they can for their families.

One option children and teens have this summer is to head over to one of our local parks or playgrounds to enjoy a free lunch, hang out with friends, play a game or sport, read a book, or fly a kite.

The Newport Public Schools will provide free meals for everyone 18 and younger on Mondays through Fridays during July and August as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program. There are no income requirements, no registration, and the program is open to all. This program is federally funded and has been in existence since 1969, is self-sustaining, and costs nothing to Rhode Island taxpayers.

Families who qualify for free or reduced meals during the school year incur additional food costs during summer months (approximately $5 per day per child). A family of four will spend roughly $800 more, straining an already tight budget. The $800 saved by using the summer food service program could then be spent on rent, utilities and at local businesses.

Last year we reached many more children over the previous summer due to the fantastic support from members of our School Committee, City Council, Recreation Department and volunteers from local schools, businesses, charities, churches and neighborhood associations. They understand that providing a free meal and fun environment helps keep our kids strong, healthy, active and better prepared for the new school year.

If you’re between the ages of 16 and 116 and would like to donate an hour a day, maybe share a skill, teach a new game, help a child with a puzzle, or simply hand out lunches and enjoy a beautiful sunny day in a Newport park while making a positive impact, please call or text me for more information at 401- 835-3862 or email dprendergast3@cox.net.

Thank you all for your efforts towards last year’s successful program, and we hope to see you again this summer. See you in the parks!

Dolores Prendergast

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