Lacey’s Free Lunch for Children Program

Written by Jennifer L. Grazioso

What happens to the children in the summertime who qualify for reduced and free lunches, during the school year? Do these children go without that lunchtime meal?  Are these parents able  to pick up the slack financially?  Or do these children go without lunch in the summertime?

Fortunately, churches, restaurants and volunteers pull together as one and fulfill the missing lunch for these children, which in some cases could be their only meal. 

The other day, I meet with Pastor Applegate, Lacey United Methodist Church to discuss this beautiful collaboration, Lacey’s Free Lunch for Children, a program to assist and meet the needs of those less fortunate in our  community.

Pastor Applegate shares that “we need to lift them up and care for them.”  No one wants negative attention  during a difficult time in life.

The process , Lacey’s Free Lunch for Children, starts with the Board of Education of Lacey Township, who sends out seven hundred letters to the families that qualify (children who receive reduced and free lunches during the school year).  Parents can choose three to five days of lunches when they sign up.  If you have misplaced paperwork or feel your child may qualify,  please contact your child’s teacher or principal within Lacey Township Schools.

Everything is kept anonymous and confidential.  The parents of these children have a cooler on their porch where the drivers  leave the lunch.  “No one  sees anyone, to be respectful to the parents/children,” explains Pastor Applegate.

Lacey’s Free Lunch for Children started in 2013 with 67 children and has grown to 137 children in 2016, a number likely to increase for 2017.

So, you ask, who is involved to make Lacey’s Free Lunch for Children a success?  There are many churches who partake in the program:  Bayshore Fellowship, Community Christian Church, Crossbridge Community Church, Forked River Baptist, Forked River Presbyterian, Lacey United Methodist Church, St. Pius X, and Village Lutheran Church.  Also, Lacey Food Bank for Kids volunteer with the Free Lunch for Children program.

There are many restaurants in Lacey Township who also partake in the program as well:  Walmart, Wawa, Jersey Mikes, Forked River Butcher, Captain’s Inn, Apple Bee’s, ShopRite, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Lanoka Farms, Manhattan Bagels,  and Perkins as well as many local pizzerias.  Volunteers pick up food daily at the above stated restaurants to complete the Free Lunch during the summer.

For example, every day Jersey Mike’s provides heads of lettuce for the salads.  Wendy’s provides apple slices.  Every Thursday, Perkins donates pancakes  and Manhattan Bagels donates bagels.  Forked River German Butcher supplies ham and cheese every Tuesday for sandwiches.

During the Vacation Bible School programs at Lacey United Methodist Church as well as Village Lutheran Church qualifying children are served dinner.

Pastor Applegate says, “we haven’t published  this before due to confidentiality, however, I wanted to share with the community how great these people, churches and restaurants, are who volunteer as well as how amazing Lacey Township comes together when there is a need,” shares Pastor Applegate.  “We have experienced this before during Hurricane Sandy and now with the Drug Awareness program,” explained Pastor Applegate.

If you would like to volunteer please contact Lacey United Methodist Church and ask for Joann (609-693-5222).  They would love to have more volunteers, especially children (help pack the lunches). “It is a great way for children to learn about giving and helping others,” said Pastor Applegate.