New Castle News

April 24, 2013

Program feeds hundreds of local kids

Renee Gendreau
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Lawrence County Summer Food Service Program offers free meals to eligible children age 18 and younger during the summer.

In 2012, more than 23,000 meals were served at 13 sites throughout the county with more than 1,400 children participating in the program.

Now in their third year of operation, organizers hope to increase the number of locations providing meals. While some sites offer both breakfast and lunch daily Mondays through Fridays, others only operate on specific days and only serve lunches. Several locations offer supervised children’s activities.

According to information provided by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, 21.6 percent of children in Lawrence County live in “food insecure homes,” meaning they don’t know from day to day if they will have food.

“Child hunger is a serious issue with one in five children in the U.S. struggling with hunger. In New Castle, 72 percent of the children live in poverty,” noted Christina Winniewicz, regional summer food service program coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. “We knew when we started a summer program here there was a significant need.

“Having an organized summer food service program is really an extension of the free and reduced school lunch program,” she continued. “We’ve found that for many children, school meals are their only source of nutrition.”

The summer meal program is federally funded and administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Local organizations, coordinated by the food bank, sponsor the program and receive reimbursement for qualifying meals served to eligible children. Yet, reimbursement at roughly $3.47 for lunches and $1.98 for breakfasts often doesn’t cover costs.

“Some of our sponsors operate at a loss because they believe helping the children is the right thing to do,” Winniewicz said. “That’s why fundraisers like Empty Bowls are so important.

“Our goal is to raise $5,000, which will be held by the United Way and go directly toward Lawrence County programs,” she explained.

In Lawrence County, program sponsors include the Lawrence County Community Action Partnership, New Castle Area School District, Walker Neighborhood House, Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts, Cray Youth and Family Services, Holy Redeemer Parish, the City Rescue Mission, New Castle Community Y and Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center.

Also involved with the program are the Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and the United Way.

More information on the summer food program is available by calling at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at (412) 480-3663, ext. 409, or visiting the Web site at www.pittsburghfoodbank.org.