Nourishing the youthful body and soul in Lawrence

Peninsula Public Library offers free summer lunch program for children under 18

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The Peninsula Public Library will be doing it’s best to feed hungry children this summer, with assistance from Long Island Cares, a nonprofit that aims to wipe out hunger on Long Island.

Through Friday, Aug. 31, the library will have free meals for children under 18 years old, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “More than seventh-five percent of kids in the [Lawrence] school district receive free or reduced lunch,” said Library Director Carolynn Matulewicz. “Some kids would be left with no meal options otherwise.”

Long Island Cares also runs summer feeding sites at many other libraries. “If fifty percent of students or more qualify for lunch assistance then that’s determined to be a viable site,” said Jessica Rosati, the organization’s chief programs officer. “Libraries are awesome. They have summer reading programs and lots of things to do in the summer to keep children’s minds healthy and active. We partner with them to nourish the body and soul too.”

Matulewicz’s hope is that having children at the library for meals will spur more children to read throughout the summer. “We’re piggybacking with the summer reading program,” she said. “They come to the library, get a book and get something nutritious to eat.”

The food choices vary, but according to Matulewicz they’re typically comprised of a sandwich, some sort of fruit or vegetable and a drink. All meals would also be kosher, “We have to make sure that we have foods that everyone can eat,” Rosati said.

Turnout varies as well, but Matulewicz estimates that some days there are 15 children and on others as many as 50. According to Rosati, they served 588 children in their inaugural year, 2016, and 504 last year at PPL. The program began by giving out free breakfasts. That continued last year, but the serving time was pushed back a bit. Now they’re looking to serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The library also collaborates with the Five Towns Community Center’s summer camp. Campers occasionally come by to get food and books. The library also promoted it in the summer reading brochure, that is given to all elementary and middle school students in the school district.

The Lawrence Middle School PTA also looks to promote the event through fliers and social media postings. PTA President Sasha Young, said that they’re incredibly thankful for the program and that she likes bringing her 13-year-old twin daughters, Alexis and Alexandra down to the library during the summer.

“I have to say that I see the PPL food program as sort of a trifecta, what could be better,” she said. “A nutritious meal, a chance to grab and read a really good book, and a cool safe place to enjoy it.”