The Schenectady Community Ministry’s weekday summer meals program restarted Tuesday at over 30 locations across Schenectady County.
The program provides food to kids who may not otherwise have regular meals during summer break in a school district where 74% of children qualify for free or reduced lunch rates, according to the Schenectady City School District website.
Meal pickup times last an hour and a half. Most begin between 11 and 11:45 a.m., and end between noon and 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The program is continuing with the “Grab and Go” format from last summer because of current COVID-19 restrictions. All meals are pre-packaged by SiCM volunteers, and can be quickly passed out to children at the distribution sites.
SiCM has about 20 volunteers and 10 interns who help package the food each morning, and use five SiCM-owned vehicles to bring it to the various distribution locations, said Joanne Rafalik, chief operating officer. The organization gets all of its food from Schenectady-based catering company J.R. Proprietors, she said.
The package includes both breakfast and lunch items, Rafalik added. A typical breakfast consists of milk, juice, cereal, and fruit, while the lunch is milk, juice, fresh fruit, a sandwich or wrap, and a couple of snacks, she said.
Distribution locations are in areas of the city that SiCM has determined have the highest need, such as churches or libraries near municipal housing neighborhoods.
The program served 58,625 meals to children in Schenectady County in 2020. It expects to serve between 600 and 900 children each day this summer, Rafalik said.
Meals are available to all youth under 18 years of age, regardless of whether they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The program will continue until the Friday before Labor Day, Sept. 3, according to Rafalik.
SiCM is also hosting a Summer Meals Kick-Off Event on Friday, July 9, to celebrate 27 years of the summer meals program. The event will begin at noon at the Jerry Burrell Park in Schenectady and will include free lunch from Schenectady Urban Farms, guest speakers from the United Way of the Greater Capital Region, and a raffle for new books from The Open Door Bookstore.
A full list of “Grab and Go” locations and start/end times can be found on the Schenectady Community Ministries [SiCM] website at https://www.sicm.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Schedule-Summer-Meals-2021.pdf
More information about the program and volunteer application forms can be found at https://www.sicm.us/what-we-do/summer-meals/