By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — With school closed for the summer, many area children will miss the cafeteria offerings for healthy meals.
Two food programs have stepped up to fill the gap by offering nutritious meals free of charge.
Southern New Hampshire Services/Rockingham Community Action brings its free meal program to Derry again this summer, offering food in three locations every day through Aug. 23, except for July 4 and 5.
The federally funded program provides healthy meals to low-income children under the age of 18 during the summer, when they no longer have access to free/reduced meals in school.
Summer food program director Patricia Carignan said the program is only in its second year in Derry, but has been very successful in other communities
This year, the program is serving five towns in Rockingham and Hillsborough counties.
Food is delivered by car and all volunteers wear shirts bearing the program’s name. This program is geared more toward the supper hours.
Carignan said the first day of operation last week was a bit slow. She said it’s always a process to make families feel comfortable with the program.
“But it will pick up,” she said.
Last year, the program served close to 1,000 meals in Derry at the three sites.
Daily food sites and times in Derry are at Fairways apartments, 4:15 to 5 p.m. (residents only); Franklin Village apartments, 5:15 to 5:45 p.m.; and Hood Park, 6 to 6:30 p.m.
Children also have a second option for free nutritious meals earlier in the day. The Salvation Army back with its canteen truck, delivering healthy lunches twice a week.
This is the third year for the Salvation Army program.
That program operates Tuesdays at the Fairways apartment complex and Thursdays at Hood Park.
The Salvation Army worked with the school district to plan the program and its locations to help as many children as possible get good food while school is out for the summer.
Derry’s Chief Financial Officer Frank Child serves on the Salvation Army Advisory Board and works with other board members to help serve the lunchtime meals twice a week.
The meal mission in Derry is important.
“The issue we were trying to address is lunch meals for kids in the summer who normally receive a free lunch during the school year,” Childs said. “The program has been very successful at the Fairways and less so in the downtown area. We hope that locating at Hood Park this year will produce better results in the downtown area since we know there is a need for the program.”
Childs said he is happy to be working with the Salvation Army’s summer food program again this year.
“We are very proud of this program and its mission,” he said.
For more information on the Southern New Hampshire Services food program, call 668-8010 or visit snhs.org.
For information on the Salvation Army summer food program, call 434-7790.