By ALANA PERSSON, THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Community members ranging in age from 5 to 92 rallied together on Monday to kick off the sixth summer of Got Lunch! Laconia.
"It was a great beginning to the summer, with a primarily younger crowd helping out at the start of this year, and lots of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts taking on leadership roles," said Paula Gile, Got Lunch! Laconia, board member. Other volunteers who joined in the opening distribution included Mayor Ed Engler and Tony Felch of the Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction, which has helped donate over $100,000 to Got Lunch! Laconia since its inception in 2011.
Got Lunch! Laconia serves healthy meals to local children in the community during the summer months. The Got Lunch! Laconia program was inspired by local community member, John Walker, who was startled by the staggering rate of students on free and reduced lunches in the city of Laconia. With 60 percent of the students in the district eligible for free or reduced lunches, and many other families in need, Got Lunch! Laconia began in 2011 as a way to ensure children were receiving a balanced meal at least once a day. The services provided by Got Lunch! Laconia are available to any families with school aged children in the city of Laconia who fill out a meal request form.
The celebration of the start of this season was well attended by local volunteers, however the number of children registered for the 2016 Got Lunch! Laconia program, was slightly lower than the 657 that were registered in 2015.
"I would like to think that the lower numbers may mean that there are less children in need, but it also may mean that families may have not signed up for the services yet," said Gile, who went on to state that registration is still open to local families. Forms can be found online at www.gotlunchlaconia.org/ or at the Congregational Church of Laconia office.
As of the start of 2016, there were more than 70 businesses and faith-based organizations that have partnered with Got Lunch! Laconia to provide the 120,504 lunches that have been served over the past five years. Direct support has been provided by the local food bank, as well as through a partnership with local supermarket Vista Foods, which ensures that local families can have access to dairy products through the Dairy Voucher Program. Got Lunch! Laconia is excited to share that additional partnerships have been established with The Lakes Region Agriculture Collaborative, which will providing fresh, locally-grown vegetables for distribution beginning next Monday.
Volunteers handle the production and distribution of meals each Monday morning between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon. Tasks for volunteers include packing grocery bags from the hours of 8 to 10 a.m., as well as the delivery of groceries from 8:30 a.m. to noon. More than 230 volunteers assisted with the delivery process last summer.
"Volunteers are always needed, and anyone is welcome to join us any Monday morning and lend a hand," said Gile.
According to Gile, assistance is also needed through monetary donations that help them purchase canned tuna and chicken, which have been low at the food back this year, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Donation forms can be found online at the Got Lunch! Laconia website.
Additionally, community members can support Got Lunch! Laconia by purchasing raffle tickets for a Sea-Doo personal watercraft donated by Irwin Marine. Tickets are $10 each or three tickets for $25, and can be purchased at Irwin Marine, Vista Foods, All My Life Jewelers, Tavern 27, Sports & Marine Parafunalia, and Piche's Ski & Sports. The raffle drawing will take place on Monday, Aug. 15, at 8:30 a.m., at the Congregational Church of Laconia.
With their bags full, Darlene and Peter carry food to their drivers for delivery for Week 1 of the Got Lunch Laconia program at the Congregational Church Monday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Volunteers Judy Nelson, Xander Ainsworth, Tina Batchelder and Lacie Houle fill "Got Lunch" bags on Week 1 at the Congregational Church Monday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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