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Yankees Manager Joe Girardi Pitches Free Summer Meals in East Harlem

By Jeff Mays | July 23, 2014 5:17pm
 New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was at Thomas Jefferson Pool in East Harlem Wednesday with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to push what is the largest summer feeding program in the country.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi at Thomas Jefferson Pool
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HARLEM — New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi had a good reason Wednesday for the kids at East Harlem's Thomas Jefferson Pool to participate in the city's free summer meals program.

"How many of you know our shortstop?...He's retiring," Girardi said about Derek Jeter. "How many of you know that I need a new shortstop next year? Let's eat well and help us out."

Girardi was on hand with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to push what is the largest summer feeding program in the country. Last year, the city served 7.6 million breakfast and lunch summer meals which are available free for people 18 and under at 1,000 city facilities such as pools, libraries, schools and public housing sites.

The program launched on June 27 and runs through August 29.

One in five New York City kids experiences not having enough food at some point during the year, said New York City Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg. Low-income families spend $300 more on food per month during the summer.

"When it comes to feeding our kids we can't strike out, pop fly, balk, no errors," Berg said.

Mark-Viverito said she and the City Council had been unsuccessful in pushing for universal free lunch for all kids in the city school system, but had secured universal free lunch for middle schoolers for the upcoming school year and would be pushing for more.

"No child in New York City should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from," said Mark-Viverito.

Girardi served lunches, asking kids whether they wanted turkey, peanut butter, bologna or salami sandwiches and low-fat milk, in between fist bumps and autographing baseballs.

"You get one body and you have to take care of it," Girardi told the kids before explaining how healthy eating help Yankees players have the energy to pull out a grueling extra-innings victory over the Texas Rangers Tuesday night.

"Think about how much energy it took for those players to find a way to win 2 to 1. We didn't score a run for 13 innings," Girardi said. "If they don't put good food in their system they are going to run out of energy."

The kids also won prizes such as Yankee game tickets and a chance to see their favorite players take batting practice.

Angelo Borrero Sr., 48, a hotel fire safety worker, was at the pool with his son Angelo Jr., 10, and family friend Moussa Keitta, 13. He said the free meals made a difference.

"If I don't have the money to buy lunch they can get it here and we can spend more time at the pool," he said.

Borrero's son said the turkey and cheese sandwiches were his favorite meal so far.

"I go swimming first and when I get hungry—because swimming makes you hungry— I go grab lunch," he said.

Call 311 or visit SchoolFood for more information about free summer meal sites.