Department of Parks + Recreation aims to serve 150,000 free meals to Providence youth this summer.
Mayor Angel Taveras today joined Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and other federal and state officials, the New England Patriots cheerleaders, Pat Patriot, former New England Patriots tight end and Fuel Up to Play 60 Ambassador Jermaine Wiggins, and representatives of the New England Dairy & Food Council to launch Providence's summer meals program with the goal of serving 150,000 free meals to Providence youth this summer.
The Department of Parks + Recreation serves free nutritious meals to all kids and teens, ages 18 and under, through the summer meals program to ensure that children have access to healthy foods when school is out. Last summer the program served 128,000 meals to Providence kids and teens.
"Getting a free lunch for children and teens is as easy as showing up to a Providence park or recreation center this summer," said Mayor Taveras. "Our summer lunch program ensures that all Providence youth have access to the nutrition they need to learn, play and grow when they are out of school."
The federal program, administered by the Department of Parks + Recreation in conjunction with the Rhode Island Department of Education, provides free lunches at 35 area recreation centers, pools, water parks and organizations.
"Research shows a lack of nutrition during the summer months may set up a cycle for poor performance once school begins," said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. "We must do all we can to ensure that children get nutritious food year-round so that they are ready to learn during the school year and have a greater chance to succeed."
Meals are served Monday through Friday, July 1 through August 16, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Times and locations may vary, so parents and families are encouraged to call 2-1-1* to find a summer meal site in their neighborhood. Meals must be eaten on-site.
"In Rhode Island, we know how important it is to keep children healthy, well rested, and well nourished - not just during the school year but throughout the year," said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "Far too often, children eligible for free and reduced-price food services during the school year have fewer options in the summer - or none. We cannot let these children go hungry. That's why we have an ongoing commitment to the Summer Food Service Program, and I commend our partners in Providence for once again expanding the summer meals program in the city."
Today's event included opportunities for kids to play and learn with the Greater Providence YMCA's Y on the Move inflatable obstacle course and the Fuel Up to Play 60 truck. Healthy activities were sponsored by Farm Fresh RI, URI SNAP-Ed, Partnership for Providence Parks, Sodexo, the Providence Fire Department, and Ocean Breeze Farm. The event featured performances by the Bolivian Folkloric Association and James McBride, also known as Mr. Deep Positivity, the healthy rapper. Kurt Messner, Acting Regional Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, was also on hand for the event.
"Healthy eating is critical to health and well-being, and plays a major role in preventing obesity and diseases like diabetes and heart disease," said Michael Fine, MD, Rhode Island Director of Health. "I commend the city of Providence for their dedication to providing nutritious food and achieving optimal health for all the city's youth through the summer meals program".
Former New England Patriots tight end and Fuel Up to Play 60 ambassador Jermaine Wiggins attended today's event to talk to kids about the benefits of good nutrition.
"Healthy eating is important all year long, not just during the school year, and that's what the summer meals program offers," said Wiggins. "I'm proud to be here today to talk to these great kids about the many benefits summer meals. It offers students the nutrition they need all summer long to keep growing up strong!"
Meals will be served at the following locations: