PSU is partnering this summer with the Got Lunch! Plymouth program, which will provide healthy supplemental foods to approximately 80 local children. The program, now in its eighth year, is operating out of Prospect Dining Hall.
This community collaboration began providing lunches to school-age children in Plymouth in the summer of 2013. During the school year, about 40 percent or more of the children at Plymouth Elementary School and Plymouth Regional High School are eligible for free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch. Following the lead of other communities, parents from Plymouth, in collaboration with area churches and community partners, started the summer lunch program to meet the nutritional gap.
Margaret Salt, a retired reading specialist, coordinates the community-wide organization. Got Lunch! Plymouth’s diverse steering committee includes business professionals, a farmer, and an epidemiologist, among others. Volunteers help assemble bags of food, which will be picked up by families this year rather than delivered as they have been in years past. This year’s first distribution date was on Monday, July 6, and will continue on Mondays afterwards through August.
“Because of the pandemic, we’ve adopted a ‘drive by’ model,” says Salt. “Participants drive by Prospect Hall and we have runners bring the bags out to their vehicles.”
The program provides nutrition for babies capable of eating solid food and all school-age children up through high school. Foods are all chosen for their quality, with an emphasis on high fiber and high protein content. Fresh fruit and vegetables, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, canned tuna and chicken, condiments, and cereals are among the items regularly provided. The program also provides coupons that enable families to pick their own produce at Longview Farm and dairy and fruit at Plymouth Hannaford.
“We understand the needs of families and children because we’ve got children and grandchildren ourselves, and there are children in our neighborhoods,” says Salt. “We know that brains develop 24/7, twelve months of the year, and to have good quality food all year round is important for children’s learning and future productivity.”
“Plymouth State is proud to partner with Got Lunch! this year,” adds Tamara Hebert, director, events and conferences. “This is a valuable program for families and children and we value the volunteers who make it happen.”