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WARM lunch program to be expanded this summer

WESTERLY — A program that keeps kids fed when school is out for the summer is expanding at the WARM Center.

“This is something we’ve always wanted to do, a little at a time,” said Russ Partridge, the center’s executive director. “We wanted to go one more step this year.”

For at least the past five years, Partridge said, WARM has provided breakfast and lunch for about 100 students attending a summer program in Bradford. This year, the program is expanding to include brown bag lunches for children in the summer playground programs held at Cimalore and Craig fields.

The meals provided are “very basic,” Partridge said, but they fill in the gaps for families that struggle to feed children without the help of free and reduced-price lunches in school.

Lunches will be available for every child in the program, according to Partridge, and not just the ones who receive financial assistance from the school district. That way, the children who receive assistance are not identified. About half of the children expected to enroll in the summer programs receive at least reduced-price lunches at school, Partridge said. He anticipates that WARM will be preparing lunches for about 200 children.

The lunches will be made possible by donations from the public, and volunteers who put the lunches together.

“We have a great group of people who come in on a regular basis,” he said, but the organization is always looking for more volunteers. In addition, “we’re always looking for donations for the program.”

The Summer Lunch Program is separate from other programs available for Westerly children, such as the Weekender Backpack Program at the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, which recently began providing weekend food for eligible Westerly families. There is also a program at the Jonnycake Center called SPLASH, which stands for Summer Program Looking to Alleviate Hunger, which provides weekly groceries for eligible families during the summer. Although the programs are separate, “we know that we’re not duplicating services with Jonnycake,” Partridge said.

Follow Leslie Rovetti on Twitter at @STreporter.

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