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Gillibrand, local officials address childhood hunger

Sullivan County legislative chairman, Scott Samuelson, left, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, chef Andy Yeomans and Town of Thompson supervisor Bill Rieber attend a press conference at Town of Thompson Park.
TRR photo by Carol Montana

By Carol Montana
July 23, 2014

TOWN OF THOMPSON, NY — Childhood hunger is a personal thing for Monticello Central School District Food Service Director Andy Yeomans. Each Monday through Friday during the summer, he and his food-service staff prepare breakfast and lunch for 850 to 875 children at 12 different locations in the Monticello Central School District. Another location will be added in August.

“It’s always been a matter of economics here in Sullivan County. It’s the ability to find a sustainable job, the ability to find a salary that will sustain a family. Just in my own household—it’s public record, I make $68,000 a year—I pay $1,250 a month in rent and every winter I’m carrying fuel oil in five-gallon cans because I can’t afford that delivery. I have four girls and my wife, and it’s a challenge.”

His personal and professional experience with the issue is why Yeomans was on hand to introduce Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. She was making an appearance at the Town of Thompson Park to announce her legislation to expand the Federal Summer Food Service Program.

Yeomans relayed a tale told by one of the food service team directors. Two students had bitten one another. “They bit one another,” said Yeomans, “because they knew that if they were hurt, they would go to the nurse, who had a little bit of extra food.”

He called on all members of Congress to enact the legislation unanimously. “Do not tell these children there’s no money. They hear it more than you’ll ever say. Find the money, just as our hungry families must do each and every day. Find the money.”

Gillibrand addressed her remarks to the children attending the YMCA summer camp at the Town of Thompson Park. She said that one of her jobs is to be on the Agriculture Committee, and she asked the children what we need to grow in this country. The excited children raised their hands to respond, shouting out answers like potatoes, carrots, cheese and cows.

Thirty-one million students take part in the national school lunch program, 22 million of whom receive free or reduced lunches. Only one in seven has access to summer meals.

On a typical school day in Sullivan County, 4,072 students participated in the free or reduced-priced school lunch program. But in July 2013, only 808 Sullivan County children participated in the summer lunch program.