Winooski, VT– Myers Memorial Pool in Winooski is one of many locations in Vermont that are serving out free meals to kids this summer.
Hunger Free Vermont, the Winooski School District and State Rep. Taylor Small want to bring visibility to the local side of a federally funded program, while bringing awareness to childhood hunger.
“Given that it’s summer and most families are used to their children getting free meals throughout the school year, it’s really important just for nutrition, for kids to be able to access meals throughout the summer,” says Robin Merritt, the recreation and parks director with the City of Winooski.
Merritt emphasizes kids don’t have to enter the pool to get a meal, and can simply drop by to pick one up.
“The school district and the city has worked really hard over the past many years just to destigmatize free meals, free clothing, free resources, and to gain access to all these resources that our community needs,” Merritt says.
You aren’t limited to your own local site. Hunger Free Vermont’s Lechelle-Antonia Gray says other sites will still serve those displaced by floods.
“The summer meal sites are for everyone, so you don’t have to be someone who is benefitting from any of the programs in school. If you’re 18 and under, you can get a meal,” Gray says.
As parents bring children for free meals, they can learn about state resources like 3SquaresVT, which gives monthly food funds based on your needs.
“We want to be meeting people exactly where they’re at, so if they’re going to be out on a hot day at the pool, we want them to also know about the resources to make sure they are able to make a nutritious meal at home that night, or be able to get lunch that day,” says Rep. Small.
Gray says the program acts as an extension of the Universal School Meals Bill. Her top priority is making sure children don’t go hungry.
“This fall, your kids can go to school, you don’t have to worry about packing breakfast or lunch because that will all be taken care of,” notes Gray.
Merritt adds the Winooski School District has been able to keep up with the demand for lunches.