BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (WWLP) – A free summer lunch program for children kicked off in different parts of western Massachusetts on Thursday.

22News went to the Chestnut Hill Community School in Belchertown, where kids were lining up for cheeseburgers, milk and fresh slices of watermelon, a celebration to mark the start of the “Summer Eats Program.” The program provides free, healthy lunches to children throughout the state, with no ID or registration required.

Erin McAleer the President and CEO of Project Bread said, “We know during the school year kids rely on breakfast and lunch at school. The purpose of this program is to make sure kids are fed during the summer.”

According to the Food Bank of western Massachusetts, inflation and the rising costs of groceries have made it harder for many families to get food on the table. Members of Congress noting this problem, extended pandemic food waivers.

Congressman Jim McGovern told 22News, “One of the things that Congress did, is that we extended waivers and extended the summer feeding program for anyone who needs it, anyone who wants it. So any family can come here, the children can come and sit here, or they can grab and go and take it with them.”

The Summer Eats Program runs Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and you can pick up these lunches at different locations throughout the state. Any child 18 or under is welcome to have one. There are dozens of locations across western Massachusetts, you can find a meal site near you on the Project Bread website.

The program works with local farms, so some food is fresh and local.

Barrett Grazioso the Food Service Director at Belchertown Public Schools explained a bit on how working with the local farms was beneficial, “We just got a beautiful bounty from our local garden, so we’ve got some special items inside today,” he expressed.”

It’s important to not that not all of the free lunch distribution centers are at schools, some are located at parks and apartment complexes.