When school’s out for the summer, so is breakfast and lunch for many Newton students. This year the city is partnering with the FUEL program at the Church of the Redeemer to help families in need of additional food.

The already successful FUEL program fills backpacks with nonperishable items for students to take home from school. The expanded summer version of the program will offer backpacks in more locations throughout the city, all available for children and their caregivers to pick up as much as twice per week.

Over 13% of Newton residents (1,096 families, 1,628 individual students) in our public schools are certified eligible for free or reduced lunch. And many more families than that experience food insecurity on an intermittent or regular basis. Over the summer, the lack of school supplied lunch (and in some cases breakfast) is a significant hardship for families. Some cities and towns offer summer lunch programs, but Newton does not qualify for the federal government funding that supports such programs.

In response to this need, Newton’s Health and Human Services Department partnered with FUEL (a program at the Church of the Redeemer) to help bridge the gap during the summer. Currently, the FUEL program provides school-like backpacks filled with non-perishable essentials throughout the school year, designed to put extra breakfast and lunch items on the table for a weekend. The FUEL program has given out over 930 backpacks of food to date via our schools. This new partnership between the Health and Human Services Department and FUEL will expand the program to the summer months and include 15 different community locations to pick up back packs, most of them places that our families frequent during the season. The locations include: Health and Human Services Department, Church of the Redeemer, West Suburban YMCA, The Boys & Girls Club, Crystal Lake, Gath Pool, Newton Free Library, and many more!

Newton may be more known for wealth but according 2015 data, 11% of Newton school children are living below the poverty line. Additionally, nearly one out of eight households in Newton are living on an annual income of less than $25,000. Given Newton’s cost of living, which is approximately 15% higher than for Middlesex County overall, making ends meet in a high cost community is extremely challenging.  Newton has three busy food pantries that operate year- round. They also recognize the additional needs of families during the summer months and offer families more food and/or more visits during the summer months. Working together we strive to ensure that all of Newton’s families have their basic needs met.

For more information about this and other local food programs as well as a full list of backpack locations, visit: www.newtonma.gov/socialservices