UWGCR, CAPTAIN and community partners celebrate the launch of the Summer Meals Program

United Way of the Greater Capital Region, CAPTAIN and community partners celebrate the launch of the Summer Meals Program

UWGCR and Summer Meals Collaborative members are encouraging Capital Region children to come together, eat together, and have fun together at more than 50 locations this summer.

Mechanicville, NY |  Tuesday, July 5 – Joined by CAPTAIN Community Human Services, C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios and the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center, and elected leaders, United Way of the Greater Capital Region (UWGCR) kicked off its 2022 Summer Meals program at Mechanicville’s Park Avenue Playground on Tuesday.

Since the Summer Meals Collaborative was formed in 2013, more than 1.7 million meals have been served to local children, with 281,314 given out last year alone. Of the more than 50,000 Capital Region children who eat free and reduced-priced meals during the school year, only one in seven have accessed Summer Meals in the past.

“As the price of food, fuel and other services continues to rise, our Capital Region families are feeling the added burden each day,” UWGCR President and CEO Peter Gannon said. “The Summer Meals Collaborative came together nine years ago with a goal of making sure no child goes hungry during the summer months. While we’ve successfully served almost 2 million meals, we know this partnership continues to be a vital resource to kids and families.”

This summer 15 partners are serving meals at more than 50 sites around the Capital Region. CAPTAIN Community Human Services, which has served more than 100,000 summer meals since the program was launched, is overseeing 18 sites in Saratoga County this year.

“Free Summer Meals aren’t just about food,” CAPTAIN Executive Director Andy Gilpin said. “This is about the health of our kids and their ability to learn, to grow, to build a bright future. Access to nutritious food has long-term impacts on things far beyond mealtime, including increased high school graduation rates and reduction in the likelihood of chronic disease.”

In 2022 the Summer Meals Collaborative is welcoming two nonprofits, which will be helping kids create fun and engaging art projects at meal sites. C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios will be working with children in Saratoga and Schenectady Counties, while Albany Center Gallery will be at locations in Albany County.

“CREATE is thrilled to have United Way’s support in expanding our summer lunch programming,” said Heather Hutchison, Executive Director at C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios. “Direct art programs with and for the community is the core of our mission. We are more quadrupling our capacity at summer lunch sites this summer and cannot wait to see the creativity that shines through this summer."

Megan Quillinan, executive director of the Mechanicville Area Community Services Center, said the work between collaborative members has allowed service providers to keep up with growing demands.

“This partnership ensures children from households facing food insecurity maintain access to healthy and nutritious meals throughout the summer,” Quillinan said. “Since the start of the pandemic, the number of children from the Mechanicville School District receiving free summer meals has increased by more than 350 percent. With the price of basic necessities like groceries and gas still on the rise, summer meals offer another way for families to stretch their budgets even further.”

Hunger Solutions New York, which aims to alleviate hunger across the state through advocacy at the state and federal levels, has been a collaborative member since the program’s inception.

“Thousands of places across New York — including many libraries, parks, schools, and community centers — are serving free, healthy meals for kids and teens this summer”, said Krista Hesdorfer, Child Nutrition Program Manager at Hunger Solutions New York. “These meals keep kids well-nourished during the break from school, when they lose access to healthy school meals, and help families stretch their food budgets at a time when many are struggling with rising food costs. With many sites offering fun activities, too, summer meals are a true win-win for families.”

Families can find a Summer Meals site in their community by calling 211, texting their ZIP code to 898-211, or by visiting unitedwaygcr.org/summermeals 

Anyone looking to support the program can make a donation here.

Additional Summer Meals partners include the Albany Housing Authority, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Capital Area, Regional Foodbank of Northeastern New York, Rensselaer County Department for Youth, Refugee and Immigrant Support Services (RISSE), Schenectady Community Ministries (SiCM), Schenectady City School District, New York State Education Department, Siena College, Russel Sage College.