Efforts are ongoing to keep children fed during this time of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
As school district officials know, for many children their school meals are their only reliable source of food.
So, both the Pasco and Hillsborough County school districts have set up meal distribution sites and have been providing meals to students ages 18 and under.
At the Pasco County School Board’s April 21 audio meeting, Betsy Kuhn, assistant superintendent of support services, provided this update.
“Today (April 21) was our fifth week in meal service, since schools closed,” she said.
During the week of March 23, the district served approximately 5,500 students per day, with prepackaged meals at its original feeding sites.
On March 31, it began distributing prepackaged meals once a week, with each student receiving five breakfasts and five lunches for the week. That week, it served 80,680 meals to over 8,000 students at 27 sites and 16 bus stops.
On April 21, it served 143,000 meals to 14,300 students, which was slightly less than the week before.
All in all, the district has served more than 536,200 meals since the school closure began, Kuhn said. The district has received some donations, to add to its prepackaged foods, she said, noting it has received fresh corn and cucumbers.
She also noted that Connerton Elementary was scheduled to be added on April 28, as one of the district’s distribution sites.
“We have had a huge demand in the Central Area,” Kuhn said, noting that 1,400 students were served on April 21 at Pine View Elementary.
The Pasco distribution program will cease on May 19, but is set to begin again on June 2, with some modifications.
In other news, Pasco Schools Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd said the district will be joining
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, State Rep. Ardian Zika and State Sen. President Wilton Simpson to initiate a food drive.
“Even though we’ve been very successful at feeding our students, we remain concerned that as summer approaches, it’s going to become more difficult,” Gadd said.
He noted that Fasano is donating a substantial amount of food.
He also said “we’ve also reached out to some not-for-profits around the state that are shipping fresh produce throughout the state, and we’re trying to make connections with them, and we’re very optimistic that that’s going to occur.”
School board members Allen Altman and Cynthia Armstrong expressed appreciation for the ongoing efforts.
“I think it’s never been more evident that our schools are much more than education opportunities. What this system, what our employees and community support have done to support families in the last month, is nothing short of amazing,” Altman said.
He also noted that he hopes when the pandemic passes, “people will remember how much the public school system contributed to the community.”
Armstrong said it has been heartwarming to see the gratitude expressed by people receiving the food.
“Seeing the handmade thank you signs that the students have made and they hold up in the windows, really makes you appreciate what we’re able to do for our students’ families,” Armstrong said.
Meanwhile, in Hillsborough County, on April 15, the district began distributing food one day per week—with students receiving one week of food at a time.
“Due to new CDC guidelines and a statewide stay-at-home order, our district wants to minimize contact between Student Nutrition Services workers and our families. We believe one-day-a-week food distribution will be safer for the community as a whole,” the website says.
“Families will be able to pick up a week’s worth of nutritious meals every Wednesday at the same 147 sites, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. This will include one pound of lunch meat, a loaf of bread, milk, juice and nutritious snacks.
“Students will receive enough food for each school day. Buses also will be transporting foods into specific neighborhoods for pick up every Wednesday.
Each student will receive a bag of food that needs to be refrigerated, and one that can stay at room temperature.
“It’s important to note that these food bags will weigh over 10 pounds together. If you are walking up or riding a bike to a Grab-and-Go site, please have your child bring their empty backpack to provide a simple way to transport the food,” the website says.
For a list of frequently asked questions, visit HillsboroughSchools.org.
Additional sites have been added to Pasco County Schools’ drive-thru feeding sites. Here is the current list of active sites within The Laker/Lutz News coverage area. The sites are open Tuesdays only, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bags of food include breakfast and lunch for five days, for each student.
The sites are:
- Chester W. Taylor Elementary
- Connerton Elementary
- New River Elementary
- Pasco High School
- Pasco Middle School
- Pine View Elementary
- Quail Hollow Elementary
- Rodney B. Cox Elementary
- San Antonio Elementary
- West Zephyrhills Elementary
- Zephyrhills High School
Published April 29, 2020