During fall, winter and spring low-income Connecticut families depend on free meals at school for their kids. But children can’t have school breakfasts and lunches during the summer. A new food program in New Haven is bridging the gap.
"We have chicken. We have some baby carrots..." Deborah Davis smiles as she serves kids who are lined up cafeteria style eagerly awaiting their evening meal. "Mashed potatoes, and some wonderful peach cobbler"
Four nights a week, low-income children from New Haven can have “Summer Suppers” free of charge. Nancy Carrington is executive director of the CT Food Bank which created the program. "A recent study measured the number of children who are in poverty and perhaps missing meals in the summer. And it is 13% of children under the age of 18 who don’t have enough to eat in CT and that’s one child in 8."
Summer Suppers is funded through the organization Feeding America and held at the Elks Lodge on the border of New Haven’s Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods. "In terms of kids who may identify with one neighborhood or another, this is neutral ground. And is considered safe territory."
Between 50 and 60 youngsters come each night. Some arrive with their parents, but most are on their own or with friends. Many would be eating dinner at home alone. Their parents may work multiple jobs or be unable to prepare nutritious meals. In addition to feeding hungry kids, the Summer Suppers program offers educational programs.
Shantelle Ratchfor is an athletic 13-year old with a twinkler in her eyes. Today made a whole wheat pasta necklace. Now she’s finishing up her meal. "It gives you a lot of freedom and you get to play. When you outside there’s too much bad stuff happening these days, so they need to have more of these activities and stuff."
And each evening a Summer Supper worker goes out to find teens on the streets who may be hungry. Connecticut Fook Bank’s Nancy Carrington. "Last night he encountered a young man who looked to be maybe 14, 15 years old who was sitting on the curb by himself, just looking kinda dejected. And he struck up a conversation with him and found that the young man hadn’t had anything to eat yet that day."
The boy came in for a meal and had seconds. Carrington says she hopes he’ll be back for many more helpings before the summer ends.