When the sun was at its strongest Tuesday, in the early afternoon, five cars pulled into the rear parking lot of Milton Public Library.
A library staffer stuck her head out of the library’s back door, squinted into the sun and held up a sign asking those seated in the cars how many lunches were needed.
The summer lunch program for Milton residents age 18 and under began June 15 and has been busy everyday since. Free lunches can be picked up at the library from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The meal service is sponsored by the Milton Township School District and the Vermont Agency of Education. Steven Marinelli, food service director at MTSD, oversees the program.
Susan Larson, director of the Milton Public Library, said the library has been a pick-up site for school lunches for many years, but that this summer was the first time lunch was being offered curbside.
“We were wondering if it would be as busy this year, but it’s been pretty non-stop everyday,” Larson said.
At the library June 23, residents are asked to wait in their cars or at a far distance until the lunch is placed on the curb and the library staffer returns inside.
For one woman and her daughter, this was their first time going to the library pick-up site. They usually take advantage of the program all year long, she said.
“It’s her favorite today,” the woman said, holding the day’s lunch out in front of her.
Beneath the plastic wrappings was a corn dog, a helping of baked beans and a handful of fries. Cartons of 1% milk were also served.
According to the summer lunch menu, local products are used when available.
Over 37,000 children in Vermont depend on free or reduced-price meals during the school year, according to Hunger Free Vermont. When school cafeterias close in June, or in the case of the pandemic, in March, many children lose access to this essential resource.
Jennifer Hasanovich said the summer lunch program is very helpful to her and her family and the food is of good quality. She brings her two toddlers with her to grab lunch a few times a week.
“It depends on my work schedule,” she said. “But we typically come two to three days a week.”
Hasanovich uses lunchtime to also pick up and drop off library books. Several other people on Tuesday simultaneously picked up a meal and a bag of books or a craft kit.
After the Milton schools switched to remote instruction in March, the district, with the help of federal funding, still provided its students with meals.
Busses departed from the elementary school and delivered two meals -- breakfast and lunch -- to students every day, according to a March 18 WCAX article.
Free summer lunches will continue to be available to the Milton community until Aug. 21.
UPDATE: This article was updated at 12:18 p.m. June 24 to correct that Hunger Free Vermont is not a sponsor of the summer lunch program. The program is in partnership with the Milton Township School District and the Vermont Agency of Education.