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Waterbury raising awareness on summer meals program for children

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — End Hunger Connecticut is trying to get the word out about its free summer meals program for children, by highlighting places in Waterbury where low income children can get food.

In cities all over Connecticut, so many children rely on free meals at school. But what about during the summer when school is out?

“Hunger does not go on vacation,” is how Katelyn Shappy of End Hunger Connecticut sums it up.

At John F. Kennedy High School, Jose Berberena is looking forward to starting 9th grade in about a month. In the meantime, he gets a free breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria.

“They give us bars, they give us sandwiches, they give us milk, juice, fruit,” Berberena explained. “It’s all fresh.”

Even kids too young for school were enjoying a free snack at a day camp in Chase Park. End Hunger Connecticut supports these summer meal programs. They served more than 1.7 million meals in all of 2018, but when it comes to the summer program, the number of kids participating is actually going down.

“So we’re trying to get out in the communities and let them know that we’re here and we’re here to give that support,” Shappy said. “We want them to come out to the meal sites.”

In Connecticut, 1 in 5 children is what they call “food insecure”. Here in Waterbury, Health Department numbers show 1 out of 3 families does not have enough money for food at least once a month. Even if there is food in the house, these summer meals are usually more nutritious.

“Makes me feel better,” said incoming JFK High School 9th grader Jocelyn Torres. “Makes me feel more energized than I would when I eat at home.”

Which is precisely the idea – preventing what is known as the “summer slide.”

“Children who do not have the proper nutrition in the summer often go back to school with less knowledge than when they left,” Shappy explained.

In other words, food in a kid’s stomach all summer will keep his brain working all summer.

“Yes, of course, because when you eat, you can go straight into your day and you can work more efficiently,” Berberena said.

End Hunger Connecticut highlighted 4 summer meals locations just in the Town Plot neighborhood of Waterbury. There are 20 more all over Waterbury, and quite possibly one near you if you live in a city.

You can go to ctsummermeals.org for a list of locations. These are for kids under eighteen, and this is going on from now until about the time school is back in session next month.

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