Teachers and parents alike fear the dreaded “summer slide,” in which students forget a lot of what they learned prior to their extended summer vacation. However, during this time, students across the country also suffer from other issues, such as food insecurity. During this large gap in between school years, many less fortunate students experience this problem, but several organizations from the Montclair area want to lend a helping hand.

Peter Coyl, director of the Montclair Public Library, and Anne Mernin, director of Toni’s Kitchen, joined Steve Adubato, PhD., on this episode of Caucus: New Jersey with Steve Adubato to explain how their partnership is not just feeding children healthy lunches, but also encouraging reading and learning throughout the summer months.

To address the issue of food insecurity, the Montclair Public Library and Toni’s Kitchen teamed up with the Partners for Health Foundation. Toni’s Kitchen, a non-profit organization which serves healthy food on-site during the week, makes lunches, which are then available for any child at the Montclair Public Library between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm during the summer months.

“Montclair kids are well enrolled in the library and use it quite heavily,” said Mernin. “And we know there are a lot of low income kids that use the library during the summer, when they’re not getting school breakfast or school lunch. So it’s a really nice partnership to be able to provide food while the kids are also exploring the books and doing some cool projects.”

Coyl agreed that although food insecurity isn’t uncommon, even in an area as affluent as Montclair, there does exist a bit of stigma surrounding people who experience this issue.

This video was made possible thanks to RWJ Barnabas Health.

“I think people are naturally—not in a bad way, but—prideful, and any time they have to ask for help, I think it takes a lot of courage to do that,” Coyl explained. “And when they’re, perhaps, looked down upon, it hurts their self-esteem. So I think that stigma really comes from unkindness in the community.”

To learn more about how the partnerships between the Montclair Public Library, Toni’s Kitchen and the Partners for Health Foundation are aiding the community and combating this stigma, check out this segment of Caucus: New Jersey with Steve Adubato.

For more stories that impact New Jersey residents, click over to our Hot Topics in NJ series.


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