Millvale Community Library, Etna church providing free summer lunches
Children don't stop getting hungry for lunch once the school year ends. Yet, those who receive free or reduced-price cafeteria meals throughout the year are at risk for food insecurity during the summer break, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Millvale Community Library, Elfinwild Presbyterian Church and Calvert Memorial Presbyterian Church aim to address the issue through their summer lunch programs.
The library is participating in the federally funded Summer Food Service Program, which provides free, nutritious meals to children 18 years and younger. Since Millvale is a low-income area, children visiting the library for any reason automatically qualify for the meals.
“We don't ask for residency or financial information or anything. We're trying to make it available and trying to get as many kids fed during the summer that we can,” said Lisa Seel, the library's former executive director, who now volunteers to coordinate the program.
She said that, for planning purposes, the library encourages people to register at millvalelibrary.org for the program, but names and number of children are the only required information.
“Kids are very limited with what they have access to, especially if they are kids who have parents who are working during the day or working multiple jobs. They are kind of left to their own devices,” she said.
Local businesses Sprezzatura, Tupelo Honey Teas and Rolling Pepperoni will provide the meals that must require servings of grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables and milk to meet USDA standards. Due to the program's rules, children must eat on the premises.
Seel said the lunches provide a fun way to ensure that kids eat well-balanced meals, without the stigma sometimes associated with the National School Lunch Program.
And what better way to follow lunch than with recess? The library will organize family-friendly afternoon movies, Grant Avenue Pocket Park activities and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators visits to entertain youngsters after they have dined among the books or in the library's backyard.
“It's just a chance for kids to really get together with kids over summer that maybe they don't get to see. That's why we want everyone to come down and have lunch with your friends, make a date.”
The Millvale Community Library will receive reimbursement for the meals they provide, according to Seel.
For the first time, Elfinwild Presbyterian Church in Glenshaw and Calvert Memorial Presbyterian Church in Etna are partnering to offer a summer lunch program at the latter church. The program is not affiliated with the federally funded program and is open to anyone, regardless of age.
“I think that we're going to serve the lunch outside the church in Etna so that any passerby is welcome to come and have a meal. We will also offer prayer before a meal and pray over the meal as a way to touch each life,” said Eileen Hughes, an Elfinwild Presbyterian member who will help deliver the prepared meals to Calvert Memorial.
She said that her church will secure food from its meals ministry and Calvert's Bread of Life Food Pantry to offset costs.
Shirley Voller, Calvert clerk, is coordinating the program on her church's end.
The plan is an offshoot of Calvert's after-school program offered in partnership with four area Presbyterian churches, including Elfinwild.
“You're looking at some of these kids whose parents work and they might not get a lunch. So, we decided to reach out and see if we could help,” Voller said.
Hughes stressed the lunch program's importance.
“We're all a community of God and it's so important to love one another and it doesn't just mean love the person that's in your immediate family or in your immediate church. It's the whole community.”
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.