McGovern hits Royalston to promote Summer Eats

  • Congressman Jim McGovern, Royalston community members and Project Bread representatives visited Whitney Hall Park Monday as part of the Summer Food Rocks Tour to celebrate the statewide Summer Eats Program. CARSON McGRATH

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2018 11:03:03 PM
Modified: 7/30/2018 11:03:09 PM

ROYALSTON — Congressman Jim McGovern, Royalston community members and Project Bread representatives gathered at Whitney Hall Park in Royalston on Monday to bring attention to a program in the rural community that’s feeding hungry children throughout the season as part of the Summer Food Rocks Tour.

For some children, their only meal of the day comes from school, but Project Bread President Erin McAleer said the organization’s Summer Eats Program aims to fill the gap during the summer months, when kids have a higher chance of going hungry.

“Part of the challenge we have is just raising awareness about (the program) and making sure kids know these programs exist,” she said.

Project Bread, an organization committed to ending hunger in the state, organizes the summer meals program across Massachusetts to implement local free meal sites for children and teenagers 18 and younger. Meal sites include local libraries, playgrounds, schools and camps throughout the state.

Though the organization has worked with the Athol-Royalston School District in the past, this is the first year there are two free meal sites in Royalston. But for families in rural communities similar to Royalston, McGovern said they face unique issues, such as transportation, when accessing programs like Summer Eats.

“When you are in a rural area not everyone is close together. In urban areas you can do this program and people can easily walk there, but in rural areas it is more difficult so we are trying to find places where kids might congregate … there are a lot of families who need this, and we need to make sure programs like this exist,” he said.

According to McAleer, in order to tackle this issue, Project Bread funded a mobile van for this summer’s meals program to travel throughout the North Quabbin and bring meals to each site in Athol and Royalston.

“This summer we invested in more mobile summer meals programs and this is an example of one,” she said. “At Project Bread we believe in accessing people where they are so we invent all different solutions.”

Some of the sites include the Athol Community Elementary School, the Athol Area YMCA Camp and the Silver Lake Playground.

Royalston Library Director Katherine Morris said the program has been popular at the library, especially on Mondays following a preschool story time held each week.

“A lot of people really like the program; we’ve talked it up,” she said.

Royalston Selectwoman Deborah D’Amico said the program hopes to reach children in the community who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a nutritious meal in the summer.

“We want to make sure there are children in our community who, if they need a lunch, can get fed during the summer,” she said.

As part of the tour, McGovern led roundtable discussions in Webster and Amherst with state and local leaders to discuss the issue of increasing access to summer meals. The tour ended in Worcester at the Crompton Park meal site, where McGovern distributed supper to residents.

“Exposing young people to good nutritional habits early on will last with them for the rest of their life. I believe that access to food is a fundamantal right for everybody in this country,” McGovern said.

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