Public schools distribute food during coronavirus closure
Public schools in Delaware are working to distribute food to students while they are closed in response to the new coronavirus outbreak.
The state Department of Education announced Monday it received a waiver from the federal government allowing districts to continue providing meals to students during the two-week school closure Gov. John Carney ordered Friday.
“We know that many of our students depend on the meals they receive in schools as their main source of food,” said Secretary of Education Susan Bunting in a statement. “Receiving waivers for the operation of the federal School Nutrition Programs means that most of our districts and charter schools will be able to provide meals for students who may need them during the time they are not in school due to COVID-19.”
Bunting added that the state is communicating with other organizations that could help provide meals for students.
The Christina School District — which spans parts of Wilmington and Newark— plans to distribute bagged breakfasts and lunches starting Tuesday at five distribution points they use during the summer.
As with all districts, children must be under the age of 18 and present to pick up food.
Andrea Solge supervises nutrition at Christina. She admits transportation for children and families to get to the distribution hubs remains a challenge.
“We do recognize that some people do not have the transportation to get their children here, and that’s a challenge that we’re trying to face and we’re trying to respond to that,” she said. “But right now the students would just come to basically like a drive-through option, where they would just show up, we would hand them their bags— if they wanted lunch and breakfast, they would get two bags— and they would go off-site or back home to eat.”
Woodbridge School District superintendent Heath Chasinov says his Sussex County district is partnering with community organizations to distribute food at hubs within walking distance to some of the district’s “most needy” communities.
Chasinov adds food insecurity is a big issue.
“We have over 50 percent of our kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch,” he said. “It’s actually closer to 60 or 70 … So we need to make sure our kids continue to get meals.”
Andrea Solge of Christina agrees.
“Monday through Friday, we’re feeding two meals a day, and I have to assume that those are the most important meals,” she said. “I take that responsibility seriously. And I worry that when they leave, if they don’t have food, then they’re not able to eat again until the next day until they come back to our schools.”
Some districts, like the Red Clay Consolidated School District, plan to distribute meals along bus routes. Red Clay plans to start using school buses Wednesday.
The Brandywine School district plans to distribute food at nearly every school, as well as “community hubs” using school buses, starting Tuesday.
Capital School District in Kent County plans to start Wednesday at about 50 community locations using buses and food trucks, said Superintendent Dan Shelton.
A full list of Child Nutrition Sites is available on the state Department of Education’s website.
Officials at the City of Wilmington announced the City will be providing “grab and go” combined breakfast and lunch meals at 12 locations throughout the city starting Tuesday.
“We want to make sure that the young people who need a meal have the opportunity to get one within a reasonable distance from their homes,” said Mayor Mike Purzycki in a statement.
The Wilmington “grab and go” locations will provide up to 900 meals a day to any child under the age of 18.