City’s Driving Meals To Kids Until School Starts

Jordi Gassó PhotoThe New Haven school district is bringing meals to kids via truck at four new sites for stops through Aug. 22.

Pizza, plums, milk and juice were on the menu Tuesday afternoon as children, dripping wet in their bathing suits, lined up by the Galvin Playground Sprinkler on Greenwich Avenue to receive their meals. Mayor Toni Harp and Superintendent Garth Harries visited the site to help get the word out about the program.

This summer the city has sought to increase the visibility of its free meal programs in order to serve more children.

“When I call a snow day in the winter, when school’s out for the summer, I worry about kids getting their meals,” Harries said.

The food truck initiative, which kicked off early last month, takes place five days a week. It is free for all children 18 and under, regardless of their affiliation to the public school system.

Without the helping hand of the mobile food truck, Harries explained, “many of these kids would not get a meal otherwise.”

The list of truck stops casts a wide net, serving lunch at Dover Beach Park to handing out supper at DeGale Field. The four new stops for the next week and a half are all schools: Fair Haven, Wexler-Grant, Lincoln-Bassett and Brennan-Rogers.

Gail Sharry, the district’s director of food services, said these new sites will be served by a school bus, rather than the United Way-donated food truck, to accommodate for the increase in demand — 80 to 120 more children.

The food truck aims to supplement the summer lunch and breakfast programs, which ended last Friday, by putting the meals on wheels and transporting them to parks and playgrounds. All combined, the district estimates it will have served over a quarter of a million meals this summer.

Despite the presence of city officials, Tuesday was just another water-soaked rendezvous by the sprinklers.

Carla Martínez, mother of three, said the food truck provides her family with an opportunity that cannot be passed up. She brings her daughters to the Galvin Playground every day. Her youngest, Jocelyn (pictured, left), with pizza stains on her cheeks and “Dora The Explorer” T-shirt, carried her juice box around the jungle gym.

“It’s something for people in need,” said Astrid Torres, her young son Dylan in tow. “I know people on food stamps who never buy anything.”

Kids gathered around a picnic table to munch on their meals. Manuel Rosario (pictured, right), who’s 8 years old, ate his pizza with gusto.

Manuel seemed a bit perplexed when a toddler in a woman’s arms won a bike, after Harries’ fourth attempt at drawing a winning ticket during a raffle. But he had bigger fish to fry now. It was time to join the water wars by filling his empty milk carton.

That the food truck makes a daily stop by the playground, Manuel said, is a welcome gesture.

“And it’s good for the people,” he added, before launching his water missile toward his opponent and heading for the sprinklers.

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posted by: Noteworthy on August 13, 2014  9:57am

Without the helping hand of the mobile food truck, Harries explained, “many of these kids would not get a meal otherwise.”

How does Harries know this? When the school food budget is so grossly out of balance and running an annual deficit in the millions of dollars, assumptions have to be questioned.

And by the way, if Harries ever visited a school at lunch time, one would hope he would be shocked at the absolute gross waste of food that is thrown out each day. Add the stupidity of plastic wrapped packaged fruit to the visit that aside from being foolishly and wastefully packaged, is thrown out in its container. Imagine the labor, packaging and product costs.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 13, 2014  2:22pm

Oh my god some of you have an obsession over the BoE budget like I don’t know what. This has nothing to do with the BoE budget, it has to do with schools not being open and serving meals to kids from poverty families. And no, don’t even take the “Well if X money didn’t go to the BoE we could feed the kids route” because you have absolutely no way to prove that would happen and the city or state(and really the state since they provide most of the education funding in the city) would in fact funnel money there, especially given the fact it doesn’t already happen despite the marginal costs compared to other programs that would be associated with it.

posted by: duncanidaho645 on August 13, 2014  8:33pm

Actually I am pretty sure that the city makes money serving these meals.  The money for the food and labor comes from federal grants. 

There surely is money being spent from the board of ed budget that shouldn’t be, maybe even some in food service.  You need to look not for wasteful unnecessary spending, but rather a deep look at the prices paid for necessary services. Look at board of ed facilities, managed by a private company for in excess of $1.4 million when an equivalent number of city employees(5 or 6 people) could do the job for much less.

This initiative seems to be really good and judging by the numbers is one that is supported and utilized by the community.  Keep feeding New Haven children please!

posted by: Noteworthy on August 13, 2014  11:53pm

Am I obsessed with the budget? I am and so are 30 other people but that’s not why I posted the comment.

If Harries with the mayor by his side is going to allege these children are starving in New Haven without the food truck from the BOE - it should be accurate and not fabricated in order to justify free food. If they’re giving away free food because it’s a nice thing to do, officials should say so.

As for all the waste in the school lunch program - it makes me sick. It should make you sick too not only because the food budget is grossly in deficit, not so the money could be allocated to something else - but because wasting food is just plain wrong. Morally, economically and socially wrong to teach children to throw good food in the trash, a lot of it not even unwrapped.

posted by: robn on August 14, 2014  1:16pm

If NW’s point about food waste is accurate, the school system should devise a way to reduce waste. That being said, and this is not letting NHBOE off the hook for lavish spending on unneeded administration, providing meals for poor kids is a good thing to do. Lots of families in town either don’t know about nutrition, don’t care or don’t have a pot to piss in. Nutrition will improve attention and grades which is what we all want so its money well spent.