By Tyronda James
During these summer months, City of Rochester children have dozens of options to pick up free, healthy meals.
All city residents ages 18 and younger are eligible for the Summer Meals program, no paperwork is required and youth or adults can simply show up during the scheduled times and pick up meals to bring home.
“Healthy living and learning does not follow the school calendar. Sound nutrition over the course of the summer months will help kids return to school in the fall, ready to learn,” said City of Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.
“I want to thank the Rochester City School District, the Rochester Area Community Foundation and Foodink for joining our effort to make sure our children are properly fed all year round.”
The Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester schedule includes several “mobile meals” stops and delivery routes to reach more city neighborhoods. As a partnership that developed between Foodlink and the Regional Transit Service (RTS) beginning last year, Summer Meals Delivery Vans will be coming to the 19th Ward, Maplewood, Lyell-Otis, North East and North West neighborhoods.
Lesli Myers-Small, RCSD superintendent said the summer meals partnership embodies the true spirit of teamwork by coming together to benefit everyone in the community. “A nutritious meal feeds not only the body but also a student’s mind,” she said.
The meals will continue to be offered as “grab-and-go” options, due to COVID restrictions. With those restrictions lifted in New York State, however, many sites are operating traditional summer programming and offer opportunities for children to stay to participate in physical and other enrichment activities.
The partnerships are a collaborative effort by the City of Rochester, the RCSD and several local nonprofits including FoodLink, Common Ground Health and Rochester Area Community Foundation, ensuring that children have access to healthy meals after the school year ends.
“Summer is a critical time of year for those we serve – especially this year with so many families experiencing a rise in food insecurity due to the pandemic,” said Julia Tedesco, President & CEO of Foodlink.
“The Foodlink Community Kitchen continues to step up to the challenge of nourishing children during this difficult time. We want to thank all of the community partners involved, including RTS, for ensuring another successful year of Summer Meals in Rochester.”
Many schools began serving Summer Meals June 25, while many other sites – such as R-Centers – started on July 6.
These partnerships have been working through the years to overcome barriers to feed as many Rochester children as possible, even more so after the pandemic, when schools were forced to close in 2020. These community partners collaborate and lead year-round efforts to plan, promote and continuously improve the Rochester Summer Meals experience.
Dina Faticone, Chief Program Officer for Common Ground Health & co-chair of the Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester said that she is truly humbled for the unprecedented level of collaboration to ensure Rochester’s children had access to healthy and tasty meals throughout the pandemic.
“As we carry this spirit into the summer, we encourage as many families as possible to visit a summer meals site or food truck,” she said.
Last year’s Summer Meals program served nearly 450,000 meals – with an average daily participation rate of more than 5,300 children.
Maya Crane, program officer for equity, Community Foundation & co-chair, Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester, said she hopes that having access to many distribution sites will make it more convenient for families to pick up grab-and-go meals for breakfast and lunch at the same time.
She said the goal is to not have any children in Rochester go hungry during the summer months.
For the full list of Summer Meals sites, such as R-Centers, libraries, schools and other community locations call 2-1-1 or visit www.SummerMealsROC.org.