A new program sponsored by the Rotary Club, called Food for Thought, is providing some Watertown students who might go hungry over the weekend with two breakfasts, two lunches and two snacks each week.
During the week, these students can get free or discounted meals at school. About 30 percent of the students in Watertown are in the Free and Reduced Lunch program, said Watertown resident Lilia Weisfeldt, who came up with the idea for the program.
“Over the weekend the kids don’t have access to the program and a lot of kids go without any food,” Weisfeldt said. “We give them a bag of food over the weekend so they can go back to school Monday not hungry and ready to learn.”
Weisfeldt heard about a similar program in Cambridge.
“I was shocked so many kids need food and are going without food,” Weisfeldt said. “In a lot of communities you would not think have hunger needs there are kids who are going hungry.”
Looking for support for her effort, Weisfeldt turned to follow members of the Rotary Club of Watertown – of which she is currently the president – and they got behind it. They helped raise $10,000 toward running the program for the year. Food for Thought also got grants from the Watertown Savings Bank and Mount Auburn Community Health, a program of the Mount Auburn Hospital.
Food for Thought kicked off the first week of school in January. The program started at Cunniff School, and 20 students have signed up to receive food each week. Weisfeldt hopes the program will eventually reach all Watertown students who need it.
“We are getting the program rolling at one school with the goal of expanding the program to the other schools in the fall,” Weisfeldt said.
Weisfeldt has teamed up with the Food Service Department of the Watertown Public Schools to run the program. The bags are packed and stored at Watertown High School before being distributed on Fridays.
“The Food Service Director Stephen Marshall has been fabulous,” Weisfeldt said. “We were able to order it through them an get a reduced rate.”
For the first few weeks Weisfeldt has packed the bags herself, but she hopes Food for Thought will also be an opportunity for residents and students to help out.
“I am looking forward to getting the Watertown community involved,” Weisfeldt said. “Hopefully we will get people to volunteer. Whether it’s once a month. It takes an hour.”
Those interested in volunteering or supporting Food for Thought can contact Lilia Weisfeldt at email@example.com.