By Erica Meltzer, Sam Park
On the heels of widespread school closures announced last week, Colorado districts have rolled out plans to keep feeding the tens of thousands of children who rely on school meals.
Dozens of Colorado school districts that collectively serve about 85% of the state’s students announced closures of at least two weeks.
Whether it’s a snow day or a pandemic, one of the biggest considerations when deciding to close schools is how to continue to feed children. Breakfasts and lunches served at school are a critical source of nutrition for many students.
Statewide, about 40% of students are eligible for subsidized meals, a measure of poverty, and that number is much higher — 64% in Denver, 74% in Aurora, 91% in the tiny Sheridan district, where many students are homeless — in many metro area districts. As efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus affect business after business, even families who used to be able to afford groceries may struggle to put enough food on the table.
Many school districts have designated pickup sites where families can get breakfast and lunch for children ages 1 to 18. Denver will also provide meals to people who are older than 18 but still enrolled in school, a category that includes many young adults with disabilities.
In most cases, districts are not asking for any paperwork related to either income or residency, but parents or caregivers will need to bring the children with them. Schools and community sites will have drive-up stations where people can pick up one lunch and one breakfast for each child.
In some cases, school districts are also providing family food boxes.
The Colorado Department of Education has received a waiver from the federal government that allows school districts to provide meals to students during closures without the usual requirement that students eat together. Additional waivers allow meals to be served outside of schools and provide flexibility in what food can be included.
The link below shows Denver metro area food distribution sites, read
here (https://chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2020/03/15/map-colorado-food-distribution-school-closure-coronavirus), you can enter your address and find the site closest to you. Some Denver recreation centers are also providing dinner to children aged 18 and younger and family food boxes.
Note the dates during which food pickup will be available, as some districts are not offering food service during the week that would have been their spring break.
The Denver Public Schools Foundation is also raising money to provide food to adults and to give out weekend food bags. You can donate here: https://dpsfoundation.org/foodsecurityfund.
If school closures extend longer, food distribution in most cases will continue as well. If your metro area school district pickup site or community agency isn’t on the map, please send the information to Chalkbeat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado. Samuel Park is Chalkbeat’s Digital Producer. Reproduced with permission by Chalkbeat/Colorado.
For More Colorado News: WWW.ELSEMANARIOCOLORADO.COM
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