NASHUA — City children who take advantage of free and reduced lunches throughout the school year still have a place to go this summer for free and nutritious meals.
Last summer, more than 5,000 meals were served as part of the Summer Food Service Program offered by Southern New Hampshire Services.
"This program is for low-income youth who qualify for free and reduced lunches. When school is out, we are still able to feed these children," said Patricia Carignan, director of the summer program.
For some less fortunate children, the lunch they receive at school is their only meal throughout the day, according to Carignan, who said she doesn't want to see that vital meal come to an end just because the school doors have closed for summer vacation.
For the 11th year, Southern New Hampshire Services will be offering city youth free lunches and suppers for the next several weeks.
No proof of residence is necessary, and meals are provided regardless of race, color, origin, sex or disability. Even if children were not receiving free and reduced lunches throughout the school year, they are still eligible to receive the summer lunch and supper meals as long as they are 18 years old or younger.
"These families are usually very appreciative, especially the parents," said Carignan. "We will even help provide infants with formula if necessary."
There are seven locations in the city where the free meals will be served weekdays from now until Aug. 26. The cold meals, which are funded though the United States Department of Agriculture, must be eaten on site, and must follow federal nutrition guidelines, according to organizers.
Meal sites operate in low-income areas where at least half of the children come from families with incomes at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the USDA website.
"Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child's need for good nutrition. The Summer Food Service Program provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children in low-income areas get the nutrition they need to learn, play and grow throughout the summer months when they are out of school," says the website.
Last summer, more than 2.28 million children participated at nearly 39,000 sites nationwide, according to the online data, adding Congress appropriated nearly $400 million for the program in fiscal year 2012.
Nashua's lunch sites include Amherst Park at 525 Amherst St. from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.; Bronstein Apartments at 41 Central St. from 1:15 to 1:45 p.m.; Crown Hill Pool at 27 Burke St. from 2 to 2:30 p.m.; and Centennial Pool at 22 Sargents Ave. from 2:45 to 3:15 p.m.
The supper sites include: 11th Street Apartments on 11th Street from 4:45 to 5:15 p.m.; Major Drive Apartments at 101 Major Dr. from 5:30 to 6 p.m.; and Los Amigos Park at 40-52 Ash St. from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m.
Meals will not be served on July 4 and 5. For more information, call 668-8010 ext. 6048 or visit www.snhs.org.