No restrictions on daily free lunch program for kids
Kids younger than 18 years old can receive a free lunch Monday through Friday at the Boys and Girls Club Oakland Beach branch regardless of their residency or family’s income for the entire summer.
Aramark Corporation, a national food service distributor, is supplying the lunches for the Boys and Girls Club through the National School Lunch Program. Warwick is eligible because 50 percent of Oakland Beach students are eligible for free and reduced school meals.
This is the first year Aramark and the Boys and Girls Clubs have partnered and offered this for all kids. Aramark has a location on Metro Center Boulevard in Warwick and also provides lunches for a camp in North Providence and in Central Falls.
“We want to make sure that kids are eating,” said Monique Herard, assistant food service director at Aramark of Warwick.
So far, the Warwick sites are averaging 15 to 20 lunches a day between 12 and 12:30 p.m., but they hope for the number to increase.
The menu changes daily with an assortment of a protein, fruits and vegetables. Last Wednesday’s lunch consisted of a honey mustard chicken wrap with a pear, apple juice and milk.
During the half-hour that the kids were eating, parents kept a watchful eye. The kids sat across one another and told each other jokes.
“It’s nice to get a little break from home and walk over,” said Im Theth, a mother who brought her and her neighbor’s kids. She added that the food the kids get covers the five food groups.
“It’s different from what I cook at home,” she said.
Aramark worker Nina McPherson said, “Even if it’s only five children a day, it’s worth it.”
During the school year, McPherson serves lunches and is now helping assemble the food trays and deliver them to the locations. There were 13 lunches given out last Wednesday.
Herard said Aramark is confident it won’t run out of lunches this summer.
Executive Director Lara D’Antuono at the Boys and Girls Club said now that all kids are eligible to get a free lunch, those really in need are taking full advantage of it.
“When you qualify for a meal program, there’s a stigma attached,” she said. “Removing the stigma well supercedes the extra spending to guarantee all kids are having a well-balanced meal.”
The only requirement is that the kids eat the lunch onsite.
Parent Catherine Snead has brought her two daughters every day since the program began.
“I’m grateful for this program,” Snead said. “Families can’t always afford lunch for their kids.”
Her and Lisa Francis, another parent who attends three or four times a week, said they haven’t seen many other parents bringing their kids to get a meal.
“I’ve been telling everybody,” said Francis.
Her foster son, Diymitry Francis, 8, said he’s enjoyed the lunch every time. Wednesday’s chicken wrap was his favorite.
“My favorite was the ham, lettuce and tomato sandwich the other day,” said Robert Carnevale, 12, a friend of Diymitry.
“We want to see the kids eating,” said Herard. “We don’t care what your status is, we want to enjoy your company, and it’s a way for us to be part of the community.”
The free lunch service at the Boys and Girls Club will be offered until Aug. 11.