There’s no such thing as a free lunch––except in Schoharie County.
The Joshua Project in Middleburgh is coordinating free lunch programs at four sites and plans to serve more than 250 meals through July and August.
The lunches are available noon to 1pm at United Methodist Churches in Cobleskill and Richmondville, the Middleburgh High School cafeteria and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Central Bridge.
The lunches are open to all, Monday through Friday.
The Joshua Project, a Christian faith-based organization, first started free summer lunches in Middleburgh six years ago.
The group fed many after the 2011 Irene flood, “and after that subsided, we were looking for something to do,” said Joshua President Pat Costello.
It didn’t take long. On the last day of school in Middleburgh, he said, a young girl was crying and wouldn’t get on the bus to go home.
“She said she got a free breakfast and a free lunch at school, and now she was going home and there was no food,” Mr. Costello said.
“As soon as we heard that, we knew we had to do something.”
But Middleburgh’s Joshua Project had no money for free lunches. Mr. Costello called the Joshua Foundation, which said it, too, had no money.
“But they said they’d pray on it,” he said. “A few days later, they received a $5,000 donation, and they gave it to us.”
That funded the first year in Middleburgh. Afterwards, the Joshua Project fundraised for following summers, not only for lunches––the organization’s most costly effort––but for other Joshua programs.
Typically, a lunch is a sandwich of egg salad, ham, turkey or tuna, fresh fruit and vegetables, a snack, water or lemonade and sometimes, dessert.
There are special days for pizza, which need sponsors, and also each site barbecues once each week: Burgers, hot dogs or chicken breasts.
The target audience are children and the elderly, Mr. Costello said, stressing that the meals are open to all.
“If you don’t need a meal, it doesn’t matter to us,” he said. “You’re welcome to come. We like it that way.”
In fact, Mr. Costello added, having those who don’t need a meal at the table makes others more comfortable.
Some of the sites have other helpers besides the host church organization. Cobleskill is that way, with Methodists, Church of the Good Shepherd, Fusion Community Church, Calvary Assembly of God and Lutherans each taking a day of the week, according to Judy Warner, representing the Lutherans.
“It’s a very good cooperative effort,” she said.
It’s the first year Cobleskill’s worked with the Joshua Project.
“I talked with Pat at a prayer breakfast, and learned all the good things the Joshua Project does,” Ms. Warner said.
There was no free lunch in Cobleskill last year––previously, it was at Zion Lutheran––“and people missed it,” Ms. Warner said.
She’s concerned that with the new location, United Methodist, attendance may be down until people realize there’s a new site.
Don’t worry, Mr. Costello advised.
“It’s building. It will grow,” he said.
Free lunches at Richmondville United Methodist averaged 25 last year, its first with the Joshua Project. This year, Richmondville is already averaging 45 per day.
And Middleburgh averages over 100.
“There’s a need for this, a very strong need,” Mr. Costello said. “We’ll be serving 250-plus every day.”
Anyone wanting to donate can send a check to The Joshua Project at PO Box 413, Middleburgh, NY, 12122 or call 518-937-2422.