With school finally out, the Schenectady County library and other local organizations have stepped in to support children and families with free breakfast and lunch and a summer full of activities.
The annual summer food program, run by Schenectady Inner City Ministry and now in its 24th year, kicked off Monday, offering free breakfast at six sites and lunch at 30 sites. The meals are available to anyone 19 or younger.
“We just want to stress it’s open to all,” said Rev. Phil Grigsby, SICM executive director.
Monday was the first day of the summer program, and about 800 meals were served. The program aims to offer access to food in a city where more than 80 percent of school-age kids are eligible for free and reduced lunches at school. Those kids don’t have the same access to food when school is not in session.
“If you have means, if you have resources, summer is a great time of vacation, travel, rest,” Grigsby said. “If you don’t have means, summer is a very challenging time because kids got food in school, and where are they going to go during the summer?”
Last year, the SICM program served more than 51,000 meals to kids and teens in the Schenectady area; around 1,200 volunteers contributed to the program, serving kids and reading with them at fixed sites around the city. This year, SICM is working with Schenectady-based vendor JR Proprietors. The program is staffed by about 40 part-time, paid staff.
The program offers meals five days a week at nearly 20 fixed sites and another dozen mobile sites, where trucks deliver the meals at set times. While most sites have opened for the summer, some start early next month.
The meals program launches with a formal kick-off party at Jerry Burrell Park on July 10. SICM also hosts a six-week summer camp at Steinmetz Park and is still accepting applications for that program. To apply, visit www.sicm.us or call 518-374-2683.
Back to the library
Filling another void left by the close of school, the public library hosts summer reading programs at its various branches throughout the summer, beginning in earnest in July.
“Monday through Saturday, basically every day of July and nearly every day of August, there is at least one thing happening at one of the branches,” said Kaela Wallman, Schenectady County Public Library youth services coordinator.
The library’s summer activity calendar outlines a wide range of activities over the coming months, from “messy art story time” to “instrument petting zoo.” The activities, which repeat from week to week and at different library branches, are designed for a variety of ages and interests. The library is also partnering with the Museum of Innovation and Science on a two-day science class that focuses on outer space. Those classes, which are designed for kids in second- through sixth-grade, begin the second week of July and run through August.
The library also looks to foster a passion for reading over the summer – in an effort to keep kids engaged in academic work to prevent the summer backslide that plagues poor communities. For each two hours of reading that kids log, they can score a prize from the library, including a coupon for a free Stewart’s ice cream cone.
“We really leave it up to them to pick what to read and to be self-motivated to read,” Wallman said of the incentives. “It’s really our job to provide learning opportunities for families — little ones all the way up through teenagers — and make it easier for parents to get through the summer.”
Schenectady City School District educators, though, don’t plan to leave kids on their own for the summer. In addition to an expanded summer program for about 1,000 elementary school students, the district’s bookmobile will return this summer, making weekly stops at Books and Ballin’ in Jerry Burrell Park, beginning July 7 and throughout the summer. The bookmobile will also make stops at Central Park family movie nights and at the four schools hosting students for the summer program.
Summer Lunch Program Fixed Sites
Bethel Northside Church, 1648 Foster Ave., July 5-Aug. 24, Noon-1:30 p.m.
Central Park, Central Parkway, June 25-Aug. 31, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Collins Park, Schonowee Ave., Scotia, June 25-Aug. 31, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Friendship House, 955 State St., June 25-Aug. 31, 12:45 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
Hillhurst Park, Campbell Ave., June 25-Aug. 17, 12:30 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
Jerry Burrell Park, Hamilton St., June 25-Aug. 31, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
miSci, 15 Nott Terrace Heights, July 2-Aug. 31, 12:30 p.m.-2p.m.
Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist, 1068 Park Ave., June 25-Aug. 31, 12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
New Day Christian Empowerment Center, 1259 Chrisler Ave., June 25-Aug. 31, Noon-1:30 p.m.
Quackenbush Park, Forest Road, June 25-Aug. 17, 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.
Quest Parking Lot, 826 State St., June 25-Aug. 31, 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
Schenectady Public Library, Clinton St., June 25-Aug. 31, 12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
SICM Food Pantry, 839 Albany St., June 25-Aug. 31, 12:45 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
Steinmetz Homes, 118 Henry St., June 25-Aug. 31, 12:30 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
Steinmetz Park, 2114 Lenox Road, June 25-Aug. 17, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
St. Luke’s Catholic Church, 1241 State St., June 25-Aug. 31, 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.
Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1401 State St., June 25-Aug. 31, Noon-1:30 p.m.
Wallingford Park, Congress and 5th St., June 25-Aug. 31, 12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
Yates Village Community Room, 2200 VanVranken Ave., June 25-Aug. 31, 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.