By ERIN ROLL
The Montclair Public Library Foundation launched its “Nourishing the Mind and Body” lunch program this summer, with help from Partners for Health Foundation and Toni’s Kitchen.
The program provides lunch each weekday to children and teens in Montclair who are in need. It also provides opportunities to participate in the Montclair Public Library’s summer reading program and other enrichment activities.
On Monday, Library Director Peter Coyl said the program had given out more than 1,400 lunches in the previous six weeks, and he said that the program expected to top 2,000 by its end. “There is a need in Montclair to bridge the gap for children who, once school ends, don’t have access to the free and reduced lunch program in the school and we are glad to be that bridge,” Coyl said. “While the library is about books and learning, it is also about connecting the community.”
For families who rely on the school district’s free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch program, the summer months can be a difficult time, since children no longer have access to the school-provided meals. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program provided meals to 2.8 million children a day, according to the USDA’s website.
This is the first year for Nourishing the Mind and Body. In June, the MPL Foundation received a $4,776 grant from Partners for Health, which according to a statement on its website, invests in programs that lead to healthy communities and healthy lifestyles in 15 communities, primarily in Essex County.
The library provides a lunch each weekday from noon to 2 p.m. Each brown-bag lunch includes a sandwich, a drink, a piece of fruit and a dessert. Registration is not required. The lunches are prepared by Toni’s Kitchen, the food ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Toni’s Kitchen staff members prepare the lunch in their kitchen at the church and delivers them to the library.
Earlier this year, the library ran a program during spring break that provided lunch to 145 children and teens. That pilot program was funded by private donors, according to Partners for Health.
In a statement announcing the program, the library noted that nearly 1,000 children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches in the Montclair School District, and that six of Montclair’s 10 schools are considered Title 1 schools.
Nourishing the Mind and Body runs through early September. The first day of school is on Sept. 7.