Bridgeport school meal handouts now include supper during coronavirus shutdown
BRIDGEPORT — Some came with empty baby strollers, others with large shopping and garbage bags.
There was no line, but a fairly steady stream of parents and students pulled up to a line of coolers at the front entrance of Curiale School late Friday morning.
Each cooler was labeled — one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for supper. Taped to the containers were instructions on how to heat up or store the meals.
Since a Grab-and-Go meal distribution program began two weeks ago when coronavirus shut down schools, participation has grown to more than 6,700 daily in the district, Acting Schools Superintendent Michael Testani said by text on Friday.
Since the program started, an estimated 32,000 meals had gone out.
State-wide, 128 districts are authorized to serve meals at 387 locations. In some districts, volunteers are even using school buses and trucks to deliver meals to school bus stops and apartment complexes at designated times.
In most cases, the meals are funded through the traditional federal school lunch program as well as a federal At-risk After School Meals Program,
“Everything is going well,” Testani said of the Bridgeport program. “Every day, my numbers are going up.”
Cafeteria worker Janice Northrop agreed.
“We are so busy,” Northrop said, running back and forth to refill coolers with the brown bagged meals.
“They come in waves,” she said of the parents.
Glancing at the sign that said the meals were for students age 18 and under, one young taker proudly announced himself a kindergartner.
“The kids are all the time eating,” said Alejandro Valencia, his father.
Northrop said she misses the students, but is happy to get the chance to finally meet many of their parents.
If school were in session, she’d be serving about 460 lunches a day and another 90 dinners at the after-school Light House program.
Today, she and another cafeteria assistant were assembling about 100 bagged meals at a clip.
Breakfast this day was french toast, juice and milk. Lunch was pizza, mixed beans and a juice. Dinner was packaged mini-cheeseburgers and Tater Tots.
During his daily Facebook Live briefing, Mayor Joseph Ganim, who stopped by Curiale in the morning with U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, declared it “good food.”
Murphy said thousands of meals are being served across the state during the crisis although the exact number was not available. In Bridgeport, 20 schools are open for meal pick-up from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“The more we get out from school, the more the demand seems to be,” said Curiale Principal Brett Gustafson.
On Friday, some parents were just now picking up school work packets distributed last week.
More than 500 have been picked up by Curiale parents, Gustafson said. Another 60 were printed out online by parents.
Angel LaForest was there to pick up meals for seven children.
“It helps, and it’s good,” LaForest said. “One day they had chicken. The next day, pizza. And the cereal they give has less sugar in it.”
“See you Monday,” Northrop called out to Marco Villa and his sister Quetzalli, after they collected their bags.
Marco said he was bored and ready to come back to school.