Free meals available to city students

ROCHESTER — Organizers of a Summer Meals Fest hope to boost the number of eligible children receiving healthy meals when school lets out this month.

Organizers of the May 14 event at Frontier Field said they hoped to build awareness about the daily free meals that will be available to city students younger than 18 at several locations around the city this summer. They also provided opportunities to sample healthy food options and helped parents learn about summer recreational and learning programs, explained Dina Faticone, cochairperson of the Summer Meals Partnership of Rochester.

The partnership oversees the distribution of the free breakfasts and other meals at sites around the city that include schools, churches, and recreation and outreach centers, she said.

"We have the potential to serve every child who needs and wants a meal in the summer," Faticone said.

Six-year-old Kamari Flowers plays with a hula hoop during the Summer Meals Fest at Rochester’s Frontier Field May 14.

A March 2013 report by the Center for Governmental Research found that as many as 16,000 low-income youths in Rochester are missing out on healthy, free summer meals made available to them while school is not in session. Since the partnership formed five years ago, the number of children served by the summer meals program has risen to 7,600 students last summer, she said.

The goal is to reach 10,000 kids this year, Faticone noted.

Karen Santiago, who moved to Rochester from San Diego eight years ago, said the summer meals program is a big help to families financially.

"I have two kids, it’s always important to keep up with what they eat" and give them healthy meals, she said.

Santiago said she also appreciated learning about free activities and programs available to families. She generally takes her children ages 3 and 6 to the park or on bikes rides.

"Personally, we don’t have a lot of money to spare," she said. "It is definitely … nice to find out what else we can do over the summer."

EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more about the summer meals program, visit www.summermealsROC.org.

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