Building on the successful expansion of the free summer meal program for youth, Mayor Ray O’Connell announced this afternoon that the City of Allentown and its partners are extending the program to Firehouse Fridays after school.
Children age 18 and under can get a free meal at the Hibernia Fire Station every Friday from 3:00pm to 4:00pm. The program is a partnership of the Allentown Health Bureau, the National League of Cities, Greater Valley YMCA and International Association of Fire Fighters Local 302.
Last August, Allentown was awarded a $125,000 competitive grant and 18 months of technical assistance from the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) to expand after school and out-of-school meal programs.
Greater Valley YMCA will prepare the meals which will be served by the fire union. The union purchased refrigeration to be able to store meals on site. Preparations are being made to handle as many as 20-to-30 children at the start of the program.
“This program means that the children will not go into the weekend hungry,” said O’Connell. “With all Allentown School District students qualifying for free and reduced school meals and with significant levels of food insecurity in many Allentown families, this partnership enables us to extend the program beyond its previous boundaries.”
David Fagerstrom, President and CEO at the Greater Valley YMCA, shares “When the final school bell rings, kids all over the Lehigh Valley don’t know when their next meal is coming – and we know 1 in 6 children struggle with hunger, according to Feeding America. At the Y, we’re committed to healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility - and we are a partner on this project so that the Y can provide food and nutrition to our community members in need. This Firehouse Fridays feeding program aligns perfectly with the Y mission and areas of focus; for the Y, it’s another great collaboration with the city and another important connection to the community.
Last summer, the parks, playground, camps and recreation federal free lunch program expanded to the Allentown Public Library, Lehigh Valley Hospital-17th St, Greater Valley YMCA Allentown, Alliance Hall of Allentown, and Mosser Village Family Center.
O’Connell credited the many community partners who have worked hard as sponsors of federal meals, or as feeding sites. “Exceptional things happen when as a community, as a city, we come together to help those who need it most.”