CHESHIRE — The COVID-19 virus has transformed daily life, changing the way communities operate, reshaping the way people interact, and bringing many local economies to a screeching halt.
Many families have already been left without a job, but the school district is making sure students don’t do hungry while they are out of school.
“We have had an incredibly successful and talented group of people take on this task and it has gone extremely well, given the circumstances we’ve been under,” said Superintendent of Schools Jeff Solan.
Since it was announced in mid-March that schools would be closed indefinitely, the district has been working to ensure that its students still receive daily breakfast and lunch. Meals have been provided on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Dodd Middle School.
According to Director of Food and Nutrition Services Madeleine Diker, 15 percent of students utilize the free and reduced lunch program during school, and since these meals are free to any Cheshire student, her team of school nurses, custodians, food service employees, and instructional aides have been busy assembling meals to feed those in need. These meals are available to any student in the Cheshire School District who is 18 and under; and their non-school-aged siblings.
“I am so proud of our team and what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Diker. “It took a day or two to get situated, but now we run like a well-oiled machine.”
The free meals began on March 18.
“We had about 325 students registered on the first day, and then about 675 on the second,” Diker recalled. “We ask that residents sign up exactly 24 hours in advance, so we can prepare the appropriate amounts of food for everyone.”
The school district has also received a large amount of support from local businesses.
“Bozzuto’s let us have a truck so we can keep all the food refrigerated, because there is no way we would be able to store everything here,” she added. “Cheshire Pizza and Ale also reached out to us yesterday and provided lunch for everyone working here. It's just so great that the community can come together when we need it.”
Gov. Ned Lamont announced late last month that schools will be closed until April 20, but the district is committed to ensuring that the free meal program will stay available to students if schools are closed longer.
“As long as we need to keep this program in place while school is being taught remotely, we will,” said Solan. “We have a small army of people out here who are ready and dedicated to making sure our students have the appropriate nutrition, and I am so proud of what they’ve been able to do in such a small amount of time.”
Currently, meals are being given out at Dodd on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 10:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m. If you cannot get to Dodd during this time, or are unable to leave your house due to quarantine, contact Madeleine Diker at email@example.com to make appropriate arrangements.