Evelyn Bynun doled out plastic-wrapped lunches with a smile, as children swarmed her metal food cart on Van Cortlandt Park pool’s opening day.
For the past decade, Ms. Bynun has served free breakfasts and lunches near the volleyball court to those 18 or younger.
On days like June 28, when temperatures peaked just above 90 degrees and hundreds flock to the pool, Ms. Bynun said she ends the day without leftovers.
The floundering economy has helped keep the line behind her food cart long most days, she said. It doesn’t help that the Van Cortlandt Park site is one of the few summer meals locations that operates on weekends, which Ms. Bynun said attracted children from Yonkers and beyond.
“Everybody wants to eat the food. I think there shouldn’t be an age limit because the adults want to eat too,” she said. “Some need it, you see, he was arguing with me about his age.”
The Department of Education’s Office of SchoolFood has offered summer meals in city parks, schools and beaches for more than 30 years to ensure that students who rely on free or reduced-priced lunches during the academic year don’t have to skip meals in the summer.
According to the DOE, 7,173,000 meals were served last summer, up from 6,938,000 in 2010 and 7,008,000 in 2009.
The Van Cortlandt Park pool was the first local summer meals station to open, but it is just one of five local sites.
The breakfast menu includes pancakes, scrambled eggs, bagels and yogurt. Lunch selections include pasta, barbecue chicken, chicken tenders salad and cold vegetable stew.
Lucy Colon, a Marble Hill mother who visits the pool every day in the summer, said meals like the salad, orange, Sun Chips and chocolate milk on offer June 28, were convenient for parents.
“It’s the best thing they ever did for the kids. It just makes it easy for parents,” Ms. Colon said.
Youngsters clad in towels and bathing suits tended to be less enthusiastic about the food. Some compared it to school lunches. However, Ms. Bynun said they continue to come to eat.
“The kids enjoy it. We enjoy serving it to them. Most of these kids I’ve seen from babies on up. Now some of them have children,” she said.