Children attending the Schenectady Inner City Ministry’s free lunch program at Zoller Elementary School on Monday had two choices to make: either crustless peanut butter sandwiches or tuna fish and crackers, and either chocolate or plain milk.
SICM volunteers had also packed carrots, Oreos, applesauce and orange juice into the brown bag lunches.
SICM’s free lunch program began on Monday at 16 of 23 locations and at both of two “mobile lunch sites.”
All locations will be serving lunch by Tuesday, July 8. On July 9, SICM will throw a lunch program kick-off celebration at Jerry Burrell Park.
More on program
• To see a full list of lunchtimes and locations, which are open daily regardless of weather conditions, visit SICM’s website, www.SICM.us.
• Follow @sicm_summerlunch2014 on Instagram to see regular photo updates of sandwiches and smiles.
On Monday, only 11 kids showed up at the mobile lunch site at Zoller between noon and 12:20. The elementary school was the first out of six stops, each stop lasting around 15 minutes.
George Warner of SICM said that last summer got off to a slow start for the mobile lunch sites.
But by early August, every day at noon, “this crew of kids would come running down Belmont Street,” he said, pointing to the road running past Zoller. “This being day one, they might not know we’re here yet.”
In hopes of finding his “old crew” of kids, Warner and his two SICM volunteers drove slowly down Belmont Street before heading to Carrie Street Park, their next stop.
Ten blocks away from the elementary school, at Steinmetz Park, a neat line of about 20 children waited for the SICM workers to begin serving lunch at 12:30.
Many of them had just finished chalk drawings on the nearby sidewalk.
Their supervisors were employees of the Boys & Girls Club of Schenectady, whose Steinmetz Summer Park Club partners with SICM to provide both activities and lunch to Schenectady kids.
The SICM volunteers talked with the kids while serving them lunch. As the children settled down into their seats on picnic benches, one SICM volunteer told the crowd she had an “extremely important announcement.” Trevor was turning 3. She had just met Trevor, who had gotten in line with his grandmother.
A rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday, Dear Trevor” followed.
Ezekiel, a 7-year-old who attends the Steinmetz Summer Park Club, said he’s liked the SICM lunches ever since his Boys & Girls Club counselors took him there last summer. Three reasons stood out to him for spending his summer in Steinmetz Park: “Because you get to do activities, because you get to color, and you get to have your muscles grow.”
As neighboring kids began wandering away from their half-eaten lunches, Ezekiel collected four single-serving bags of carrots.
“I’m rich. Everybody gave me their stuff,” he said triumphantly. If you asked whether he really wanted the whole pile of carrots, you would be told, as if a well-known fact, that “carrots are my favorite thing.”
Starting July 9, a new summer camp at Steinmetz Park will bring approximately 24 new kids per day to participate in the SICM lunch program. SICM partnered with Camp Fowler, based in Lake Pleasant, to offer this free four-week day camp to local kids.
Reaching out to kids from Yates Magnet Elementary School was their main object, said Janet Mattis, the community outreach and internship coordinator for SICM. Registration has already filled for the summer.