The Patchogue-Medford Library was among the first local libraries to jump onboard with the Island Harvest free lunch offerings over eight years ago, despite the library’s no food or drink policy.
Now, five days a week, the library serves up free lunches to anyone 18 years or younger (21 for those with special needs) with no questions asked—not even a library card is necessary.
“It’s about food insecurity, and children depend on school lunches during the year,” said Paulette Green, who now runs the program, hoping to provide families in need with food during the summer. “I always liked filling a need. I had five children and you think about feeding people and people going hungry. It feels good and it’s nice to help people.”
The program, she explained, is for all kids who might need a meal, especially after COVID. She and her volunteers will even hand-deliver the meals to cars that drive up to accommodate their commitment to the free lunch program.
The weekly menu usually consists of a turkey or cheese sandwich, or cereal, a bagel accompanied by a fresh piece of fruit and milk or juice—all packed up in individual paper bags and stored in the fridge for freshness.
The lunches are served from noon to 1 p.m. as grab-and-go due to COVID-19 restrictions. Usually, about people 50 show with the fewest being about 25, depending on the day, but both libraries have seen up to 75 people on really busy days.
“The free lunch program is a great way for the library to connect our local families to the nutritious food they need during the summer,” said library director Danielle Paisley. “The library is a trusted resource for local families, and a trip to pick up lunch can lead to so much more! We can recommend books and free programs to keep kids busy, engaged, and entertained this summer and create a memorable, positive experience for all. We love participating with Island Harvest and are grateful for the opportunity to fill this need.”
The meals are offered while supplies last, for pickup only with no on-site dining. The program will run through August. For more information, visit www.islandharvest.org and select Nassau or Suffolk to find a Summer Food Service Program near you.