Delaware’s First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney and members of the End Childhood Hunger Task Force announced recipients of First Chance awards, recognizing individuals and organizations who helped feed students statewide when school buildings closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic from mid-March through June. For some districts, those closures extended into the fall and are continuing.
The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), Delaware National Guarde, the Milford School District, YMCA of Delaware and the Food Bank of Delaware were among the First Chance Awards recipients.
“The demand for food assistance as a result of the pandemic has been unprecedented,” said the Food Bank’s Chief Programs Officer Charlotte McGarry. “It has truly taken our entire community to ensure that the nutritional needs of Delawareans – especially our children – are met. We are so thankful for all of the hunger heroes who have stepped up during this crisis to make sure children’s most basic needs are met.”
Chad Robinson, the Food Bank’s Community Relations Director, praised the all of the First Chance Award recipients, particularly the dedicated DelDOT and National Guard teams. “Thanks to Mike Rivera and his hard-working staff at DelDOT. We literally could not have gotten the job done at our mass distributions without the dedication of the teams from DelDOT. In addition to DelDOT, our hometown heroes, the Delaware National Guard, also stepped up to assist in our time of need by providing hundreds of guardsmen and women to assist with the distribution. Not only does the Food Bank say thank you, but also we know that thousands of food-insecure Delaware families appreciate DelDOT – and all our volunteers – who help provide one of life’s basic necessities in the midst of this pandemic,” he said.
Among those recognized by First Lady Carney was Sharon Forrest, Milford School District’s Child Nutrition Supervisor.
While all students in Milford district were learning remotely, the situation will change because students in kindergarten through third grade returned to school on Monday, Oct. 12. Forrest said she and her staff continue to deal with the ongoing challenges of making sure that students have adequate food. Costs for the meals are authorized by the USDA through Dec. 31, Forrest explained. The School Nutrition Association, a national organization of nutrition professions, are lobbying to get a funding extension through June 30.
Like most school districts statewide, Forrest said that back in March Milford’s nutrition team had to respond quickly to the state of emergency and school closings. “We had to hurry up and regroup. We had deliveries on hand. We also had to make sure we served both the lower part and the upper part of the district,” she said.
So, the team had to select the sites that they thought would best serve district families. Meals were distributed three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday — from Mt. Zion AME Church, Ellendale; Morris Early Childhood Center, Lincoln, and Banneker and Mispillion elementary schools in Milton. During the pandemic, the Polytech district served Houston families.
In March, the district served 5,905 breakfasts and 6,458 lunches; that number jumped to 17,058 breakfasts and 16,925 lunches in May. From March through August, Milford district distributed 61,116 breakfasts and 61,019 lunches.
Forrest notes that due to staffing, fewer meals were distributed during July and August.
Meanwhile, Milford School District will continue to offer meals at Morris Early Childhood Center, Mt. Zion AME Church, Houston Fire Hall, Banneker Elementary. Parents will also be able to pick up weekend backpack meals on Friday. In addition, in order meet the needs of working parents or those doing school work with children during the day, the district will offer an additional service. Every Wednesday evening, parents can pick up a weekly meal box that includes frozen entrees and non-perishable food items.
“No pre-registration is needed. Just show up,” said Forrest.
Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about the Food Bank’s food assistance programs, and visit news.delaware.gov to learn more about Delaware’s “First Chance” awards.