Summer Break is officially here, capping off an unprecedented school year. But while schools have been closed, food services teams have not stopped working.
According to a 2020 survey, there are more than 117,000 children in Connecticut suffering from food insecurity. With so many families out of work because of the pandemic, those numbers are likely higher now.
School districts across the state have revamped the way they feed children and are not stopping for summer vacation. Meals will continue to be served in many towns to make sure no child goes hungry.
In the City of Norwich, the food services team started serving meals to children as soon as classes were canceled. Their methods have shifted, but the meals have remained constant.
The school system is now delivering food to 29 sites across the city. They use school buses to deliver and keep the meals in coolers in the back. Meals are distributed three days a week and meant to last the children for seven days a week.
Erin Perpetua, food service director for the city, said that the school district has now transitioned directly into their summer meal program. In a normal summer, Perpetua said that the city distributes about 40,000 meals in an eight-week period. Things are different now.
“We have been averaging 50,000 a month. A month. Not over the eight-week period," said Perpetua.
Perpetua said that her team has been taking it one day at a time, but they are thrilled to be helping. One mom picking up meals for her daughter said she would not know what to do without it.
“It would be harder on everybody," said Mary Ingelsby. "Not just myself but a lot of my neighbors as well."
All of the schools in Norwich qualify for free lunch based on the financial need of the students. Perpetua said that her team knew that need would not go away because of the pandemic. They anticipate the need growing even more and want people to know that the meals are available for whoever needs them.
"No questions asked, just how many you need," said Perpetua.
This is a list of school districts in the state that are classified as COVID-19 Community-wide Emergency Meal Programs for Children. Any child under the age of 18 is able to go to a meal site in any of these districts and get a free meal. They do not have to be a resident of that town. Norwich is one of these sites.