What’s the best lunch offered through Schenectady Inner City Ministry’s Summer Lunch Program? An informal poll shows it’s pizza.
Sadly, Tuesday wasn’t pizza day, but a group of hungry kids at Jerry Burrell Park downed ham-and-cheese sandwiches like they were their all-time favorite. “The food is good,” confirmed 8-year-old Jeraisy Loemgarcia as she peered into her white paper lunch sack and pulled out a bag of pretzels.
The Summer Lunch Program has been up and running since June 24, but the official kickoff was held Tuesday at Jerry Burrell Park, complete with a bounce house and speeches from program organizers and supporters.
Schenectady Inner City Ministry’s Summer Lunch Program serves free lunches to children 18 and younger weekdays at the following sites:
• Steinmetz Homes Community Center, Emmons Street, through Aug. 30, 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Trinity Lutheran Church, 35 Furman St., through Aug. 16, noon to 1:15 p.m.
• Jerry Burrell Park, Hamilton Street, through Aug. 30, 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.
• Hamilton Hill Arts Center, 412 Schenectady St., through Aug. 30, 12:30 to 1:45 p.m.
• Quackenbush Park, Forest Road, through Aug. 16, 12:45 to 2 p.m.
• New Consecration Temple, 1312 State St., through Aug. 30, 1 to 2:15 p.m.
• Christ Centered Unity Missionary Baptist Church, 113 S. Brandywine Ave., through Aug. 16, 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
• Friendship House, 955 State St., through Aug. 16, 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
• Faith United Methodist Church, 811 N. Brandywine Ave., through Aug. 16, 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Central Park, Central Parkway, through Aug. 30, noon to 1:15 p.m.
• Yates Village Community Center, 2200 VanVranken Ave., through Aug. 30, 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.
• Steinmetz Park, north end of Lenox Road, through Aug. 16, 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
• Hillhurst Park, Campbell Avenue, through Aug. 16, 12:45 to 2 p.m.
• State Street Presbyterian Church, 1 Catherine St., through Aug. 30, 1 to 2:15 p.m.
• Museum of Innovation and Science, 15 Nott Terrace Heights, through Aug. 30, 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
• Faith Deliverance Tabernacle, 1028 Ostrander Place, through Aug. 16, 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Wallingford Park, Congress and Fifth streets, through Aug. 16, noon to 1:15 p.m.
• Mount Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, 809 Strong St., through Aug. 2, 12:15 to 1:30 p.m.
• Front Street Pool, Front Street, through Aug. 16, 12:30 to 1:45 p.m.
• Schenectady County Public Library Main Branch, 99 Clinton St., through Aug. 16, 12:45 to 2 p.m.
• New Day Christian Empowerment Center, 1259 Chrisler Ave., through Aug. 30, 1 to 2:15 p.m.
• Collins Park, Schonowee Avenue, Scotia, through Aug. 16, noon to 2 p.m.
SICM’S Summer Lunch Wagon stops at the following locations weekdays through Aug. 30:
• Zoller Elementary School, 1180 Lancaster St., 12:30 to 12:45 p.m.
• MacGathan Townhouses, Jerry Street, 12:55 to 1:10 p.m.
• South Gate Apartments, Frank and Albany streets, 1:20 to 1:35 p.m.
• New Mont Pleasant Bakery, 941 Crane St., 1:55 to 2:10 p.m.
• SICM Food Pantry, 839 Albany St., 3 to 3:15 p.m.
• State Street Presbyterian Church, 1 Catherine St., 3:25 to 3:45 p.m.
SICM has served free summer lunches to Schenectady children for nearly 20 years. The program has grown to feed 1,000 to 1,200 children each weekday at 22 sites in and around Schenectady.
New this year is a roving lunch wagon that stops at Zoller Elementary School, MacGathan Townhouses, South Gate Apartments, New Mont Pleasant Bakery, the SICM Food Pantry and State Street Presbyterian Church. The lunch wagon initiative started out slowly, serving only five or six lunches a day, but as word spread, things have picked up. About 65 kids now patronize the wagon daily, said Summer Lunch Coordinator Allison Williams.
According to Laurence Spring, superintendent of the Schenectady City School District, about 80 percent of the district’s students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches during the school year. The Summer Lunch Program provides nourishment for many of them when school’s not in session.
“I feel extremely lucky to be working in a city where so many folks want to work together in collaboration in order to address these issues head-on,” Spring said.
Among those doing their part Tuesday were members of the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing in Glenville, who were bagging lunches and passing them out. Senior Master Sgt. Deb Gardner of Scotia has volunteered with the program for five years and said she enjoys giving back to the county she lives in.
“The kids are great,” she added.
Ten-year-old Calista Fenwick, who lives near the park, said she comes to eat lunch there every weekday in the summer.
“There’s nice people, and the food is good,” she said, noting pizza day was the best day of the week.
David Singh, 8, was enjoying his sandwich while his mother, Octavia Sanchez, enjoyed a break from preparing a midday meal.
“The kids like to go out in summer, and it’s in the park. They can play, eat, they do different activities. We don’t have to go home and cook and do lunch,” she said.