Several Maryland school districts plan to continue providing meals to students in need as officials try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus with school closures.
Public schools across Maryland will be closed two weeks beginning Monday, state education officials announced Thursday. Schools will re-open on March 30.
The closures will affect many students — about 100,000 in Baltimore city and county schools alone — who rely on free school meals.
Baltimore City Public Schools, which provides free meals to all of its students, will be opening at least eight emergency food distribution sites at “strategically located” schools citywide from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. beginning Monday, said schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises.
The Baltimore sites, open each day through Friday, include Alexander Hamilton Elementary School, The Historic Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle School, Yorkwood Elementary School, John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School, Arlington Elementary School, Beechfield Elementary/Middle School, Sinclair Lane Elementary School, and the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.
The meals will be available to students ages 18 and younger, Santelises said. She said the district also will provide these meals to school program participants with disabilities who are older than 18. The meals will be free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches.
The district will work with Baltimore City’s Emergency Food Working Group to identify additional options for food access and distribution for the week of March 23.
Nonprofit organizations also are stepping up to provide food to students and residents. Lashawna Spencer, a family service coordinator at the Patterson Park branch of the Dayspring Head Start program, was in Lutherville Friday to gather food from the Baltimore Hunger Project organization.
Dayspring Head Start is opening its doors for a few hours and days each week for families to grab nonperishable food and fruits, Spencer said. The program has spent several days advising families to self-quarantine, Spencer said, and her organization wants families to have access to food that’s otherwise difficult to obtain due to lack of transportation and the pandemic itself.
“Everybody is kind of freaking out about what life will be like for the next two weeks … but the thing they’re worried about the most is how they’re going to be eating for the next couple of days,” Spencer said.
Lynne B. Kahn, founder and executive director of Baltimore Hunger Project, said each week they support 700 children who receive free or reduced lunch from Baltimore city and Baltimore County schools. The organization sends out weekend food packages to students, and Kahn said they’re currently worried about students who may not have food at home during the virus outbreak.
Kahn said the group has mobilized volunteers to come by its warehouse to pick up extra food that can be donated to families in need during the outbreak. The organization works directly with 25 schools in the city and the county.
Baltimore County Public Schools will provide bagged grab-and-go lunches — a cold sandwich, fruit, juice and milk — from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday beginning Monday. The meals can be picked up in the parking lots of the locations listed on the district’s website.
The Howard County Public School System will provide free grab-and-go items, and meals to anyone younger than age 18, beginning Tuesday. The meals will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at four school sites and five mobile sites through March 27, excluding weekends.
Harford County Public Schools will serve meals in communities beginning Tuesday and will do so for the duration of the closures. Details and site locations will be available at the county’s school webpage.
Carroll County Public Schools is participating in the Emergency Feeding Program to provide meals to children under age 18 without charge. Food distribution will occur midday Monday through Friday. Individuals must bring their children with them when they walk or drive up to the sites to receive meals. Details are on the district’s website.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools will provide students with a curbside pickup of hot lunches at 31 school sites from noon to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Mobile meals vehicles also will deliver meals to 21 additional sites in six communities on weekdays.
Each child will be provided one free meal each day. Children must be between the ages of 2 and 18, but do not have to be eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Adults cannot accept meals on behalf of children. Details are online on the district’s website.