BRATTLEBORO -- As a way to ensure young people have access to adequate nutrition throughout the months they’re on summer vacation, the Our Place Drop-In Center is participating in the Summer Food Service Program for Children.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered through the Vermont Department of Education, the program was designed so that children who rely on free or reduced price meals during the school year don’t go malnourished during the summer.
Our Place Executive Director Lisa Pitcher said the center is an open site, which means it can serve food to children with no questions asked in regards to economic hardship -- as more than 50 percent of the area’s school pupils qualify for free or reduced meals. She said all children 18 years or younger are served nutritious meals even if they are not from a low-income family.
"Everybody’s welcome," she said.
The center regularly serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, with breakfast served between 9 and 10:30 a.m. and lunch being served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Pitcher said Our Place served 1,266 meals in May
"We expect that number to go up now that the kids are out of school," she said.
She said the USDA has very strict criteria for what makes a well-balanced meal. There needs to be whole grain, vegetables and fruit, she said.
Pitcher said meals associated with the Summer Food Service Program for
According to the USDA’s website, lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins again. It says hunger is "one of the most severe roadblocks to the learning process" and may also make children more prone to illness and other health issues.
The program will be just one nutrition service provided by the center, which will now host youth cooking classes -- called the "Learning Kitchen" -- from 3 to 6 p.m. on six consecutive Tuesdays starting on June 26. It is geared toward low-income parents, at-risk youth and at-risk teenagers making the transition into independent living.
The Learning Kitchen is designed to improve food security for children living in families with limited budgets.
Pitcher said participants will also take home all the ingredients to craft for their families the same dishes they make during class. She said Gowell will teach the class.
"He is a great cook with lots of ideas for easy nutritious meals to make at home," Pitcher said.
She added that the center will plan a visit to the Bellows Falls Farmers’ Market on a Friday afternoon if there is enough interest from the children and their parents.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.