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Hunch is more kids will come for free lunches

| Saturday, May 21, 2011

A tough economy means more children likely will need lunchtime nourishment, and county programs are stepping in to feed them when school lets out for the summer.

"I really do suspect that we're going to see more kids coming this summer because of the need at home," said Michelle Heller, program coordinator at Westmoreland County Food Bank. "There may not be as much food at home for the kids because of the price of food and gas."

Initial participant numbers are just now coming in, she said. The program begins within a few weeks, so she'll know soon if her hunch is correct.

The Summer Food Service Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is administered by the state Education Department.

The program offers lunch -- and some offer breakfast -- to children in need.

The food bank itself provides whatever supplies are not donated, Heller said.

She said there's been no increase in government funding for the program.

"It's a flatline basically," Heller said. "And if you're feeding more kids but you're not receiving more money for it, even though that's not a cut, that's going to be seen as a decrease."

Armstrong County's Community Action Agency also hosts the program.

Kim Pivetta, the agency's community development director, said she assumes there will be more students seeking free lunches this summer, although she doesn't have applications yet to give a count.

She expects to serve slightly less than 15,000 meals this summer.

"Some of these kids-- this might be their only meal," Pivetta said. "At least their parents and we know that they're at least getting one meal per day."

The agency is sending fliers around Leechburg, Freeport and Apollo to make sure parents are aware of the program.

Last summer, Allegheny County served about 180,000 meals within the program's 10 weeks, said Sally Petrilli, a program administrator for the county's Department of Human Services.

About 100 locations spread throughout the county -- outside Pittsburgh -- serve lunch on weekdays. Some of the locations also serve breakfast.

Allegheny County programs include recreation time for children, too.

Once a site's eligibility is determined, based on factors such as the percentage of children eligible for free and reduced lunches or census data, any child younger than 18 can eat there, Petrilli said.

There are no Butler County organizations listed to participate in the program, according to the state Education Department.

Summer food programs

Here's a list of some sites in the Alle-Kiski Valley that serve free meals to children younger than18 during summer weekdays.

Allegheny County

A listing of sites will not be available until June 10, according to county officials.

For more information, call 800-851-3838.

Armstrong County

The program runs from June 13 to Aug. 19. Approximate times for each lunch are 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Call 800-405-6252 for more information.

• Seventh Avenue Playground, Ford City

• Boulder Park, Ford City

• Ford View, Ford City

• Leechburg Methodist, Leechburg

• Leechburg CAP, Leechburg

• North Vandergrift, Vandergrift

• St. John's Lutheran Church, Kittanning

Butler County

There are no Butler County organizations listed to participate in the program.

Westmoreland County

The program runs from June 20 to Aug. 12.

• Vandergrift Salvation Army, 300 Longfellow St. Lunch -- 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Sandalwood Apartments, 253 Sandalwood Drive, Allegheny Township. Breakfast -- 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Lunch -- Noon to 1 p.m. Note: Meals are served on a first come, first served basis to children who live in this low-income housing location.

• Arnold Roosevelt Park, 1800 Constitution and Drey Streets. Lunch -- 11 a.m. to noon.

• East Kensington Manor, 200 Gardlock Court, New Kensington. Breakfast -- 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Lunch -- 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• New Kensington Salvation Army, 1101 Fifth Ave. Breakfast --- 9:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. Lunch -- 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

How to help

• Allegheny County's program is seeking janitorial supplies such as bleach, trash bags and alcohol wipes and recreational supplies.

To donate, call 800-851-3838 and ask for Sally Petrilli.

• Westmoreland County's program is seeking donations of trash bags -- they must be 32-gallon heavy duty bags, preferably in 30 count or more. Other needed donations include dish detergent, multi-purpose cleaner, liquid hand soap, hand sanitizer and empty spray bottles for mixing sanitizing solution.

Drop off donations at the Westmoreland County Food Bank, 100 Devonshire Drive, Delmont.

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