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With 14.2 percent of New Yorkers living in poverty as of 2010 and more than 2.8 million people statewide receiving federal food stamp assistance according to the Hunger Action Network of New York State, getting some kind of relief to prevent hunger is vital. 

Locally, U.S. Census data says 6.4 and 4.8 percent of families with children are living at or below the poverty level in Byron and Bergen respectively.

Children in the district are eligible get free or reduced-price lunches during the school year, but what about summer? Where is that dependable, nutritious and free lunch coming from?

The Byron-Bergen district is initiating a Summer Food Service Program this year. Lunch Manager Mary Della Penna explains its benefits to a variety of people and familes.

“Their moms are going to work for more income, they can come in and eat lunch and breakfast so there’s some place to go; Rec programs use it to feed the kids that are there so they can stay there and not have to go home,” Della Penna said. “But it’s an easy way for parents to reduce their food costs. I had a mother Tuesday bring four children to lunch so she had five meals for $4. That’s a big savings when you think about your grocery bill.”

Della Penna says the summer breakfasts and lunches are equal to the school year meals. Children get a protein, carbs, juice, fruit, milk, whole grains and fresh vegetables.

The camp at the Gillam Grant Center has also taken advantage.

“It helped them reduce their cost of admission which gives a parent that wouldn’t be able to send their kid to camp an extra incentive to send their kid to camp,” Della Penna said. “It just reduces expense for food and things like that on a family. Your money can go someplace else like your heat, your water, your electricity. And it’s easy to participate in; all you have to do is show up.”

It’s a federally funded program. No names or incomes are recorded.

Children’s meals are free; adults pay $4 for lunch and $2.50 for breakfast. Meals are served at the elementary school cafeteria from 8 – 9:15 and 11 to 12:15 p.m. through August 9.

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