NEWINGTON - The makings of peanut butter and jelly and tuna fish sandwiches left First Church of Christ Sunday morning on their way to about 60 families.
Lunch this week comes courtesy of a dedicated group of volunteers from several local churches, the town’s Department of Human Services and the Newington Hunger Action Team, which is heading up the first Got Lunch Newington effort. In lieu of regular school lunches counted on from September to June, the new program is filling the summer need for at least 120 children.
“It’s heartbreaking to think kids can be going hungry so this is a very nice way to help that,” said Karyl Sadowski, a member of First Church who helped pack up and deliver food after Mass Sunday morning.
She was joined by about 30 other volunteers, led by Newington HAT Chairwoman and program founder Barbara Womer and First Church Deacon Jim Mulrooney.
“This is a community collaboration,” Mulrooney said. “There are people here from three other churches.”
The program was inspired by a similar one in Laconia, N.H., that began in 2011 and is feeding over 700 children this summer.
Now in its seventh week, Got Lunch Newington is fueled by volunteers and the generosity of local residents and businesses. Stop & Shop and People’s Bank both offered monetary donations.
First Church parishioner Elizabeth Kostreva finds it rewarding to lend a hand after church each Sunday.
“It gives me a good feeling to start my week,” she said.
The sandwich menu alternates from week to week, with cans of tuna and jars of mayonnaise replacing peanut butter and jelly or allergy substitutes. Fresh fruit and snacks are included as well, such as the carrot sticks and applesauce that went out this week.
“Next year we’re hoping to continue because it’s been so successful,” Womer said.
A handful of kids helped count items and pack bags Sunday. They didn’t join their parents en route, however.
“We don’t allow them to go on deliveries because they might be going to school with some of the kids we deliver to,” Womer explained.
Friends Sophia Monroe, 7, and Livia Harris, turning 7 this week, counted containers of applesauce together in the church.
“The people who are less fortunate don’t have as much food as us,” Livia pointed out. “I feel like we’re making their lives easier.”
Newington resident Amy Devoe said it gives her daughters Zoe, 3, and Quinn, 6, a sense of community.
There are only three more weeks of the program, which ends Aug. 20. At that point the team will start preparing for summer 2018.
To volunteer or donate, contact Barbara Womer at email@example.com or visit Got Lunch Newington on Facebook.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.