Ohio Schools Providing Meals to Students During Closings

It’s looking more like students won’t be returning to school for the rest of the school year. Many schools continue to provide students with weekday breakfast and lunch.

Have no fear when the principle comes to call at your doorstep. He’s probably just there to deliver lunch.

Numerous school districts across Ohio are making free meals available to students who otherwise would not have access to weekday breakfast and lunch during school closures. Some districts are preparing food for pickup by families in need and some are delivering meals to students’ doorsteps.

All Ohio schools were ordered closed by the governor and will likely remain closed for the rest of the school year. The Ohio Department of Education is asking schools to continue providing meals to students in need even though the schools are closed.

“One of Ohio’s highest priorities during the ordered school-building closure period, which seeks to diminish the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), is to ensure that students receive nutritious meals,” the department’s updated guidelines state. “This is fundamental to supporting the whole child.”

The department issued updated guidelines that say it will continue to reimburse schools for meals served to students during the forced closure and that school districts should file applications as soon as possible to ensure a smooth transition.

The education department is directing schools not to deny meals to those students who don’t ordinarily qualify.

In East Ohio, school administrators are preparing and delivering meals to families in the Barnesville Exempted Village School District. Elementary school principal Clint Abbott said the school is running five routes delivering meals to children.

Abbot said there are about 33 families on the list, some with multiple children.

School administrators prepare and deliver the meals themselves. Some of the food is provided by local churches.

The principle said five days of food is delivered at a time. What is in the lunch bags often depends on what foods have been donated by local churches. “It’s mostly healthy food,” said Abbot. “Foods that can be eaten by the family.”

Abbot said, for example, the meals sometime include mac & cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and bottled water, cracker snacks, Lunchable-type food, and soups in packets and cans. Abbot said bread and strawberries were part of recent delivered lunches.

With no date in sight for reopening, Abbot said the school will continue offering the free meals for as long as needed.

Abbot said that the school principals and superintendent, as well as the transportation director and cafeteria supervisor are some of those involved in preparing and delivering lunches.

Any other families in need are encouraged to contact the school. “We encourage them to reach out to us,” said Abbott.

Barnesville Superintendent Angie Hannahs said the administration is discussing a long-range plan to provide meals that would include delivery to meeting sites.

There are about 1400 students in the Barnesville school district.

Kids in the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District in Belmont County will have hot lunches available for pick up, according to Superintendent Brent Ripley.

Ripley said the district serves anywhere from 300 to 400 meals a day when school is in session and he anticipates 150 to 200 meals a day will be picked up. The program begins Thursday and will operate two days a week. Several meals could be picked up at one time, said the superintendent.

A hot lunch will be offered as well as a grab-and-go type breakfast, said Ripley.

The Shaker Heights School District in Central Ohio is taking requests from families of students who need meals while school is out. It plans to provide free breakfast and lunch to students pre-kindergarten to 12th grade from March 18 through March 20 and again from March 30 through April 3.

“Daily meals will include lunch for that day and breakfast for the next. Our options for meal items may be limited and may not meet individual dietary needs or allergy restrictions,” stated the Shaker Heights School District guidelines. “Students with food allergies should use caution before consuming these meals.”

Cincinnati Public Schools’ Student Dining Services will be distributing meals from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. Tuesday to April 3, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays each week, with an additional serving day of Tuesday, March 17.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, children will receive two breakfast meals and two lunch meals. On Fridays and Tuesday, children will receive one breakfast meal and one lunch meal. All meals will exceed USDA nutritional requirements and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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