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Pittsfield Schools Summer Meal Program Returning
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:57AM / Monday, May 13, 2024
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The school district has sponsored a summer meal program for children for nearly 50 years and it will return this season.

The School Committee on Wednesday approved the 2024 Summer Food Service Program that begins the business day after school ends. It is open to children under the age of 18 regardless of if they are enrolled in Pittsfield Public Schools.

"Given the way that food prices have escalated, I think that this is this service stands out over the summer because I'm sure there are families in Pittsfield who are really stressed to be able to buy three meals a day for the family members and this is a real benefit, I think, to the community," Chair William Cameron said.

The school cafeterias provide meals, maintain records, submit reimbursements, and supervise meal sites. The program, supported by federal funds, is administered by the state Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's  Food and Nutrition Service.

"For the past 46 years, the school nutrition office has supported a summer food service program for children," Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Kristen Behnke said.

"We try to start it as close to the last day of school as possible and continue through the summer and try to get as far along as we can towards the first day of school."

There are planned open sites at Conte Community School, Morningside Community School, Berkshire Peak Housing, Brattlebrook Apartments, and Dower Square. These sites qualify for the meals because more than half of the children enrolled in the area schools are eligible for free and reduced meals.

"It means that any child in the city, they do not have to be a Pittsfield Public School student, but any child in the city up to age 18 can have a free meal,"  Behnke added.

"We do have the option if there is an adult attending with them that they could purchase a meal at a nominal fee."

The summer reimbursement rates for 2024 are $5.21 for lunch, $2.98 for breakfast, and $1.24 for snacks.

"These funds provide nutritious summer meals for children who receive meals under the National School Lunch Program during the school year," Director of Nutrition Services Jeremy Wells wrote.

"The cafeteria staff members are interested in working, preparing food, and acting as site monitors. The cafeteria bookkeepers and Director of Food Service will be available for food purchasing, payroll supervision, and preparation of claim forms. Being a successful program for the past forty-six years, I highly recommend that we continue to sponsor the summer program."

The food service will partner with the Gladys Brigham Children's Center for breakfast and lunch for Camp Stevenson campers the center's summer program. It will also provide breakfast for the Boys &Girls Club extended day program and lunch to children at Camp Russell and will continue to provide meals at the Pittsfield YMCA and the farmer's market at The Common on Saturdays.

At least 20 school programs will also be included such as Conte Connected for Success, Crosby Brain Boosters, special education programs, high school summer school, Elite Jump Start Program, and middle and elementary school 21st Century Summer School programs.

This year the district was awarded multiple grants to assist in summer programming, including assistance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for supplies, physical activity and nutrition education incentives, and a new summer arts program. The New England Dairy Council also provided $2,000 to wrap food service department vehicles to promote the Summer Food Service Program.

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