Starting Monday, children in Sheraden will be able to access free meals after school.
Pittsburgh CitiParks’ GrubUp program, which provides free meals to city schoolchildren, added its 11th location at the Sheraden senior community center and adjoining library on Sherwood Avenue.
Students up to age 18, and people with mental disabilities up to age 21, can receive meals Monday through Friday. The Sheraden location offers a snack from 3 to 4 p.m. at the library and dinner from 6 to 7 p.m. at the senior center.
CitiParks Deputy Director Jamie Beechey said the GrubUp program doesn’t just provide area children with meals, but offers other benefits, as well.
“They do better in school, in a situation where they’re having meals with other children,” Beechey said. “They’re building relationships outside of the school day. Because it’s a nutritious meal, they’re getting what they need to be successful.”
Beechey said the GrubUp program sprang to life in September 2015, after the city ended its 30-year summer food service program with dwindling numbers.
“We developed GrubUp, which was the idea of normalizing, you know, out-of-school meals for children,” she said.
And although the new program has revived meal services for the city’s at-risk youth, Beechey said the program’s strict standards for meal preparation and services can limit which organizations can participate.
“A lot of times, with this program, it deters people,” Beechey said, “particularly, you know, some of our partners operate out of churches, and other local nonprofits that might not meet that criteria, and it makes it a little more challenging to find viable partners for us.”
Difficulties aside, Beechey said the program has been embraced by the community and the 10 centers bring in about 330 students each day.
Beechey said the GrupUp program in Sheraden will not continue at the senior center in the summer, but will be able to continue to access meals at the library.
GrubUp is funded through grants from the National League of Cities and the National Recreation and Parks Association, in addition to funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.