NEW BRITAIN – New Britain school students can get free meals during the coronavirus shutdown and the district is urging families to take advantage of it.
“We want to get as many students and families fed with nutritious meals as possible during the shut-down,” said Jeffrey Taddeo, resident district manager for Whitsons School Nutrition. “This is something we’ve been working on for weeks so we’re ready to meet the needs of the schools.”
Breakfast and lunch is provided for all New Britain students through five meal distribution centers: New Britain High School, 110 Mill St., Pulaski Middle School, 757 Farmington Ave., Smalley Elementary School, 175 West St., Smith Elementary School, 142 Rutherford St., and a food truck at A.W. Stanley Park, Stanley St.
Hours for the meal distribution centers are Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The meals are grab-and-go and both meals may be obtained during each of the open hours so parents and students don’t have to make two trips. There will be no requirements to check in or sign up and both parents and students can come by to pick up the meals that are all freshly made.
Maniah Morgan, 11, who goes to Smith Elementary, picked up her meals Monday morning and said she was glad the school was closed because she didn’t want more people to get sick.
“I still have homework to do so I don’t really feel a big change,” she said.
Her sister, Nevaeh, 8, agreed. “But I already miss school because I like my teachers,” she said. “I also like going to school.”
Meals for all 10,500 New Britain students are available, with over 41,000 meals prepped, Taddeo said. The Consolidated School District of New Britain is currently working on getting dinner meals available as well.
Superintendent Nancy Sarra said the district is also working with the state to get approval for a meal drop-off site at Mt. Pleasant, where many families in the school district live. School officials hope the approval could come in as early as tomorrow.
“We’ve been contacted by families who can’t come out to get their food. So we’re working on trying to get it to them,” Sarra said.
Depending on supply and demand, the district will also be evaluating the sites to see if there are hot spots that are more popular to go to or more convenient spots to set up a meal site.
“A lot of times you just don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens, so we’ll be evaluating the situation and address the concerns as we go,” said Taddeo, who said workers at Whitsons have been working around the clock to get the meals ready.
Sarra said the district has been working ahead of the curve and her staff has been prepping for the moment for the last three weeks.
Along with food services, the superintendent said they’re looking for more robust distance-learning plans because chances are high the school shut down could be longer than anticipated.
The school district is currently closed from March 16 to March 30.
In the event the district has to be closed longer, Sarra said the academic team has been in contact with various vendors that provide a variety of virtual learning services.
“We’re in the process of vetting them and seeing what works best for our students and families,” said Sarra, who noted that while over 75% of the students have access to the Internet, that also means there are 25% who do not. “So we’re looking into our technological capabilities both district-wide and city-wide.”
Through this experience, Sarra hopes it shines a light on the inequities when it comes to education and that it would be a prioritized issue in the near future.
In the meantime, teachers are looking at different ways to engage with students that have never been done before, such as health and wellness while being shut in.
“We hope to bring these students some humor and sunshine,” Sarra said. “We’re working on getting students a daily schedule so they still have a structure while being at home, which will include learning and exercise.”
The district continues to urge families to update their phone and emergency contact information through PowerSchool in order to receive the most updated information.
For more information, visit: www.csdnb.org