Food Program Expanded During School Closures

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by Terry Rogers

Starting on Wednesday, March 18, Milford School District began providing meals to students and families through a “Grab and Go” program at Banneker, Morris and Mispillion Elementary. Parents pulled up to the school with their children and staff members handed them a packaged lunch as well as a breakfast for the next day. As the day progressed, the district realized that the program needed to be expanded for parents who could not travel to the schools.

“We are working to expand the services, including working with the Food Bank of Delaware,” Tricia Gerken, Child Nutrition Supervisor said. “We are working with several community members and churches that have offered their assistance to set up additional food stops beyond our existing locations. We have not confirmed all the details but will release that information as soon as we have it.”

In addition to the school locations, a Grab and Go location at Mt. Zion Church in Ellendale. Initially, the meals were only for children 18 years of age or younger, but donations have allowed the district to offer meals for adults as well. On Monday, March 23, meals will be distributed at Houston Fire Company in partnership with the Polytech School District Child Nutrition program.

At Morris Early Childhood Center on Wednesday, there were two stations set up so that cars could pull up to the curb and the food handed to them through the window. There were both English and Spanish-speaking staff members there to assist anyone who came to pick up food.

“It has been pretty steady,” Glen Stevenson, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, said. “Just a few cars at a time coming through but it is definitely a service we needed to provide.

During the school year, Milford School District offers free breakfast and lunch to all students. Currently, Milford has an enrollment of 4,301 students and over 37 percent of those students are classified as low income. This could mean that almost 1,600 students may not have enough food to eat at home. It is possible that the only meal those children eat are the free breakfast and lunch they receive at school.

One parent who wished to remain anonymous explained that when schools are closed, she does not work as her position is related to helping school children. Her husband has been diagnosed with a chronic illness and they are fighting for him to get disability.

“This food program is a Godsend for us,” the parent said. “We have food stamps but they only stretch so far with kids in the house. With them being home all day long, we are using more food than we usually do. Although we won’t starve, the fact that we can come here and get breakfast and lunch is such a relief.”

Parents working in the food-service industry are also grateful for the meals as many of them have been laid off until bars and restaurants are able to open.

“We want to thank our community for coming together and helping us with this,” Gerken said. “This way we can make sure the children and families who are struggling with financial difficulties during this time of crisis continue to get the food they need.”

To see information about about the “Grab and Go” program at Banneker, Morris and Mispillion Elementary, families are encouraged to visit the Milford School District’s Facebook page.