The milk cartons are loaded and ready to be dispensed. For councilors at Highland Park in Endwell, it’s a role they take seriously.
“You are going to be or could be the biggest and most positive impact on their day, and we spend the whole summer with them. They all look up to the advisors, so that’s something we try to uphold” , said David Verrastro, coordinator of the Summer Fun program.
Dozens of children gather every day for free breakfast, lunch and activities. It comes at a time when one in five children are facing food insecurity, a higher number than ever.
It’s something No Kid Hungry, a national campaign to end child hunger, has seen firsthand.
“What we have seen are families, carers who have lost their jobs, almost overnight. We also found that maybe some of them went back to work but they found themselves underemployed, and what they can move in their budget, they can’t move the rent, they can’t move electricity or transportation, but it was the food budget that they were able to cut,” said Rachel Sabella, director of No Kid Hungry New York.
Because of this, No Kid Hungry has donated $750,000 to summer meal programs across the country, including $55,000 for the Southern Tier. In Maine-Endwell, it has helped them move their program from school to community.
“This helps tremendously. We were able to secure five Cambro carts for the Maine-Endwell school district. This will help ensure food arrived at a safe temperature using these carts,” said Jessica Brown, supervisor of the Maine-Endwell Food Services site.
The decision to bring the program to the park was to reach more children than ever before. It gives families an outlet as we approach a post-COVID world.
“We are able to give them the meals which really help us with parents, just now with the price of everything and how everything is more expensive. We are able to provide it for free right now, which is huge for the community,” said Brian McCoy, Maine-Endwell School Lunches Coordinator.
Grants ranged from $2,000 to $120,000 and went to schools, YMCAs and various community centers.