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Long IslandSuffolk

On East End, parents help as schoolkids face hunger

Bryan Futerman inside a new greenhouse at the

Bryan Futerman inside a new greenhouse at the Springs School in East Hampton. (October 19, 2009) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The small Springs School on the South Fork does not have its own kitchen or cafeteria. Students bring their lunches from home.

But in the past year or so, the school's staff noticed that some children were coming to class empty-handed and hungry.

An anonymous donor pledged $100,000 to the East Hampton district to start a breakfast program and community members volunteered to help out.

Superintendent Michael Hartner is also trying to start a school food program to provide free and reduced-price meals in the 659-student kindergarten-8th grade district.

"What we are trying to do is partner with another district, whereby we become just like we are a school in their district," Hartner said.

The district has surveyed parents and is calculating how many students would qualify for subsidized meals. The figure will be sent to the state Department of Education for approval.

In the meantime, some parents in the Springs district have stepped in to help out.

Joe Realmuto, executive chef at the East Hampton restaurant Nick and Toni's, makes sandwiches and delivers them to Springs. He said he receives food donations and puts the sandwiches together in the same kitchen that serves the rich and famous. He has two children of his own in the school.

The lunches are nutritionally sound and "a lot of things we buy from local farms; we try to pack some of that into the bag as well," he said.

Bryan Futerman, owner of Foody's restaurant in Water Mill, is a co-founder of Springs Seedlings, which is building a greenhouse to grow food that will be served to students.

Futerman, who has a daughter in the fifth grade, is also advocating for the district to have a meal program.

"We are trying to make sure these children are meeting their daily needs for nutrition," he said, "and I am committed to making sure it is a well-run, healthy program that would serve real food in the schools."

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