Free summer lunch available for area kids

BRISTOL/VERGENNES — Local schools will be out for the summer this week, but in community centers and summer camp programs across the northern half of Addison County, the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union Food Co-op will be hard at work providing free, healthy lunches to children for the third year running.
“Last year we fed an average of 300 kids per day,” said ANeSU Food Co-op Director Kathy Alexander. “This year we’ve expanded from 9 to 12 locations and we would love to serve 400 kids a day. We have also extended our program one week — last year it just felt like too long a time between the end of our program and the start of school.”
The lunches are available to any child regardless of family income.
Who pays for these hundreds of free lunches? Not Addison County taxpayers (at least not directly). Alexander explained that the federal government will reimburse the ANeSU Food Co-op for all of the expenses because under the federal Summer Food Service Program, in districts where over 50 percent of students are signed up for free and reduced meals, the government guarantees every child in the district a lunch for every day that school is out.
The trouble in some areas is that few organizations are set up to administer summer food programs that have that kind of reach. In Addison County, the ANeSU Food Co-op is well situated to do so.
“Our program is set up to deliver meals,” Alexander said. “It’s what we do, we feed kids. If anyone has a kid that needs to be fed, we try to feed them.”
Because the summer program is zero-cost, it is not just limited to the Five Town Area. Alexander has a long-standing relationship with Addison Northwest schools, and free meals will be offered at two locations in Vergennes this  summer.
“(ANeSU) works cooperatively with Vergennes to make sure that the whole county is covered,” said Alexander, noting that a free summer meals program run out of Middlebury Union High School covers the Middlebury area.
ANeSU’s free summer lunch program has partnered with area summer recreation camps, where children have to be enrolled to have lunch, but also will host ample “drop-in” locations (see list).
Those who stop in for lunch can expect a variety of healthy and kid-friendly options, including sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables and varied creative dishes (a popular one last summer was the chicken fajita salad.)
“It’s a great program,” Alexander said. “Our staff loves to do it and people love to know it’s there. People depend on it.”
Sue or Brian, please run this as a sidebar
Addison County Summer Meal Drop-in Locations:
Bristol Elementary School:June 17-Aug. 16, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Bristol Recreation Program at Holley Hall:June 17-Aug. 16, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Mt. Abe High School:June 17-Aug. 16, 11:30 a.m.-noon.
The Hub Teen Center and Skate Park:June 17-Aug. 16, 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Robinson Elementary School:June 17-Aug. 16, noon-12:30 p.m.
Lincoln Town Center at the Fire House:June 17-Aug. 16, noon-12:30 p.m.
Boys and Girls Club of Vergennes: June 17-Aug. 16, noon-12:30 p.m.
Bixby Library:June 27-Aug. 15, 11:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. (Thursdays only)
Vergennes Union Elementary School:June 17-Aug. 16, 12:15-12:45 p.m.
Vergennes Union High School:June 24-Aug. 6, 11:30 a.m.-noon.
*Lunches will also be offered at two area summer recreation camps.

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