Meriden Group Gets Food to Hungry Children

Friday, July 19, 2013
Meriden, CT

A local nonprofit group kicked off its annual free food service program Wednesday, serving breakfast and lunch to children as they played outdoors at more than 20 sites in the area.

New Opportunities of Greater Meriden, which hands out bagged meals to residents under 18, will operate its summer program until Aug. 22 this year. Supervisor Lennie Peoples said Wednesday that he had given lunches to about 20 children, but the patch of grass alongside Faith Center Church on Crown Street could fill up with double that number later in the summer.

“We do this because a lot of kids, they’re unfortunate. They can’t eat during the day, and when school goes out, they can’t eat during the summer,” Peoples said.

New Opportunities, which distributed more than 55,000 meals last year, will operate every weekday at 23 sites in Meriden and one in Wallingford. The number of sites depends on need, and the service tries to zero in on low-income areas. The state Department of Education manages the federally funded program, according to the New Opportunities Inc. website, and it takes place in school districts where at least half of the children enrolled in school qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

A 21-year-old from Waterbury, Peoples has worked for the program since 2011. He said New Opportunities also hires about 150 assistant supervisors between the ages of 14 and 18, who will start work Monday, helping to haul coolers filled with lunches and clean up trash from city parks.

“Even though it’s only like an hour and a half, it’s still putting it into their heads that working is good and you could be functional as you work. A lot of kids aren’t,” he said as he passed out brown bags with sandwich wraps, milk and juice.

He said the program’s 300 supervisors “treat” children on certain days of the week, including today when they serve pizza. Breakfast often includes cereal and graham crackers.

Peoples said supervisors hold raffles for those who come for meals every day of the week, and the prizes are meant to encourage children to come back the following summer.

“Because if not, then the grownups will keep them at home and they won’t eat. They won’t eat right at home,” he said.

Peoples has watched the number of families who take advantage of the food program grow, saying word has spread through neighborhoods over the years. He said he also works at a site where the number of children showing up every day has swelled, from 60 to about 100.

Elizabeth Simmons, sitting in the grass with her three grandchildren Wednesday, said her two grandsons and granddaughter have waited for the clock to hit 11:30 Monday through Friday for the past two summers.

“Every day, they know when it’s time to go. They might not know anything else, but they know when it’s time to come here,” Simmons said as her family munched on their food under a tree.

Sites that serve breakfast and lunch

  • City Park, Bunker Avenue, 8:30 and 11:30 a.m.
  • Endee Park, Hobart Street, 8:45 a.m. and 12 p.m.
  • Faith Center, 22 Crown St., 9 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.
  • Mills Memorial Apartments, Cedar and Park, 9:15 a.m. and 12 p.m.
  • YMCA Kids Campus, 500 S. Broad St., 8:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
  • Tot Lot, Corner of Grove and Foster, 8:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.
  • Washington Park, 460 Liberty St., 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.
  • Yale Acres, 25 Gilbert Road, 8:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.
  • Roger Sherman School, 64 N. Pearl St., 8:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m Chamberlain Heights,
  • 18 Hollis Drive, 8:15 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.
  • Chamberlain Heights, Lourdes, 28 Lourdes Court, (Andrew Street), 8:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.

Lunch only sites

  • Barnside, 33 Wharton Brook Drive, Wallingford, 11:30 a.m.
  • Columbus Park, Lewis Avenue, 12:15 p.m.
  • Johnson Farms, 24 New Cheshire Road, 12:30 p.m.
  • Scenic View Park, 36 Pleasant St., 12:15 p.m. 120 Gravel St., 12:15 p.m.
  • Maloney High, 121 Gravel St., 11:45 a.m.
  • Meriden Boys and Girls Club, 15 Lincoln St., 12 p.m.
  • Britannia Street Park, 11:30 a.m. Bronson Park, 223 Cook Ave., 11:30 a.m.
  • Silver Ridge, 1043 Old Colony Road, 11:30 a.m. 265 Hanover St., 11:15 a.m.

Dinner site:

  • Beat the Street, 121 South Colony St, 5:30 p.m.
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