A first-time program at Riverhead Free Library this summer will offer kids, up to age 18, a free lunch every weekday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The program, sponsored by the hunger-relief organization Island Harvest, kicked off Monday and will run through Aug. 24.
The meals, which range from sandwiches to pizza, come at no expense to the library or the kids who will enjoy them. Riverhead was selected as a site for the Summer Food Service Program based on the number of children who qualify for school lunches in the community. It’s considered an “open” site, meaning the program requires no enrollment and anyone can participate.
The first week of the program has been relatively slow, said Lisa Jacobs, the library director.
“We’re doing everything we can to get the word out,” she said.
The slow start was somewhat expected considering Fourth of July was in the middle of the week and the library had a light programming schedule. Jacobs said it helped to get through some of the early logistics before bigger numbers start to show up.
Jacobs said the program serves an important need for the community. The staff at the library has been more than enthusiastic about implementing it, she said.
Island Harvest presented the library with the idea for the program, which was used at a different library last summer, Jacobs said.
In the first week mostly younger children came in with their parents for the lunches. Jacobs said she hopes the older kids will start to take part as well.
Each day is a different meal. Most are sandwiches like ham and cheese or turkey and cheese on whole-wheat bread. The kids also get a juice, fruit cup and Nutri-Grain bar. Pizza is served one day.
Jacobs said the meals are based on specific guidelines from the USDA.
The library has already gotten a few new sign-ups for library cards, an added bonus to the program.
“There are a lot of things we offer that maybe people didn’t realize,” Jacobs said.