Combating Summer Hunger for Rochester's Students One Bite At A Time
School is a place where some of Rochester's poorest students are guaranteed at least one square meal for the day. So, how are they going to get a healthy meal when school isn't in session? Time Warner Cable News reporter Breanna Fuss takes a deeper look into the problem and looks for answers at the 'Summer Meals Fest.'
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Saturday was not a perfect day for baseball, and the food served wasn't your typical baseball food either. Yet, there was face painting and hula-hooping at Frontier Field.
"Today is the 'Summer Meals' launch or kickoff if you will," said Terra Keller, Foodlink chief of staff.
Foodlink, along with the City of Rochester, the Rochester City School District, and a handful of other institutions are again teaming up to make sure no child goes hungry this summer.
"It's a free meal for children 18 and under," Keller explained.
Around 70 places across Rochester will offer the meals.
Last year the average daily participation was 7,200 students. That number is expected to grow, as now 80 percent of RCSD students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches. The struggle hits close to home for RCSD's Director of School Food Services Gemma Humphries.
"I myself was a child who attended a city school and who relied on summer lunches," Humphries said.
Humphries now finds herself asking a tough question and getting a heartbreaking answer.
"When was the last time you ate and sometimes they'll tell us it was the last meal we served them," Humphries said.
Saturday there were no rumbling tummies, at least not at the stadium. An estimated 700 parents and kids were taste testing the summer dishes like wraps and salads.
Following their forkfuls, Shatoya Travis and her daughter Shania Bernard say they're looking forward to healthy meals that won't bust the bank.
"They don't give as many food stamps and food up here is getting expensive," Travis said.
Fifth-grader Melanie Green is leaving knowing food can not only be good, but also good for you.
"It was very delicious and nutritious," Green smiled.
But, summer meals program is about much more than combating hunger.
"The dropout rates increase for families that are food insecure which can only lead down a path no one wants to go down," Keller said.
It’s about pointing kids in the right direction, one bite at a time. The full list of all locations participating in the 'Summer Meals Program' will be released in June.