Youth Center to start Gilford Got Lunch! program for hungry kids in summer of '14

GILFORD — Got Lunch! — the successful Laconia program that provides lunches to less-fortunate school children in the summer — is coming to Gilford.

Tom Francouer, who sits on the board of the Gilford Youth Center told selectmen last night that in coordination with the Gilford School District, he and his board realized the need in Gilford was much greater than initially thought.

"People forget that not all families live in middle-to upper-class homes," said Selectman Gus Benavides who offered to help deliver the lunch bags when the program begins.

According to Francoeur and citing statistics given to him from the school district, 26 percent of the school district's children qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program and in total that's 313 at-risk children.

He said the cost per child per summer is estimated to be about $110 and he expects that at least 150 Gilford children will take advantage of it 2014. Grocery bags typically include bread, canned meats, peanut butter and other non-perishables and a diary product voucher that can be spent at local grocery stores.

Benavides said that number continues to grow, noting that it wasn't all that long ago when the number of free and reduced-price lunch children was at 20 percent.

Francouer said the Got Lunch! program in Gilford aims to provide one meal a day for five days during the summer months, when the schools are closed. He said the program's goal is to someday provide enough food for one meal seven days a week.

He said the Gilford program will be designed like the original Laconia Got Lunch! program. Each Monday during the summer, volunteers bring a grocery bag of food to each family with enough lunch items for all of the eligible children in the family.

"When I went to volunteer in Laconia they said, 'where have you been?'" he said, noting the Laconia organization then pointed out that some Gilford children have similar needs.

Francoeur said donations of food or money can be made at the Gilford Youth Center.