A red cooler sitting next to a new picnic table holds the lunches for anyone who drops by the old REAL School on High Street in Windham from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. This past Monday, six kids dropped in for a free, nutritious lunch and conversation about the neighborhood.
Liza Dalfonso and Stephanie Strout, both employees at Saint Joseph’s College, were the volunteers of the day, passing out milk, PB&J, yogurt and a banana.
"It’s a fun, nutritious lunch, said Martin Jefferson, a seventh grader.
"It’s free," said Jack DiBlasi, a sixth grader. The boys liked getting together for lunch and sharing their knowledge of the area. They arrived in groups of two.
"It’s really close by," said sixth grader Brandon Davis, who along with the other boys, walked to the site.
Saint Joseph’s College and Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative are inviting children and teens to come for lunch all summer. Last year the program was in a different location and did not attract many people. This year as word gets around Windham and Gorham, they hope that the program will grow.
"In the past three years we have served nearly 12,000 lunches, at nine lake region sites," said Amy Russell, who coordinates the program.
The summer food program is for anyone one 18 and under. The only caveat is that the food must be eaten onsite.
"Our involvement with the program began four years ago. We joined efforts with The Maine Hunger Initiative to resolve childhood, summer hunger. This is our fourth summer, all of which I have worked on this," said Russell of Saint Joseph’s College’s involvement.
"I saw it on the website at Saint Joe’s," said Dalfonso. "I thought it was such a great idea. This makes me so happy. It’s such a great feeling," she added.
The lunches will continue until August 22. The meal menu changes each day, from chicken, lettuce and tomato wrap, ham and cheese wrap, chicken tenders with dip to a turkey and cheese sandwich, and includes healthy sides. In Windham, the location is the same, rain or shine.
The volunteers on Monday brought sheets for picnics. A canopy and a picnic table are there as well.
"This program is 100 percent volunteer run. We rely on the locals to help distribute the meals, as well as entertain the kids. We work with the USM Cooperative Extension to provide nutrition education. We would be interested in anyone with talents or interests to share to come and share with the kids!" Russell said.
The Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative is a direct action and advocacy program created to meet immediate food needs, offset food supply shortages, and develop long-term solutions to hunger.
The Federal Summer Food Service Program (FSFP) is an equal opportunity provider. Meals will be provided to all children free of charge regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability.
Other free lunch sites are Naples at the town beach or if raining at the Naples Town gym, Casco at the Community Center, 940 Meadow Road, and the Sebago Elementary School lawn, 283 Sebago Road in Sebago. Harrison’s site is at Crystal Lake Park, Norway Road, but is closed July 7 to the 11 for Old Homes Days.
All sites will be closed on July 4.
For more information contact Catherine’s Cupboard Coordinator Amy Russell at 893-7790 or firstname.lastname@example.org.