By Michael Gagne
MERIDEN — Local school officials hope to help make a challenging holiday break for many families a little less difficult.
So staff in the school district’s food and nutrition services department will hand out an expected 4,500 kits, totaling about 63,000 meals, to any family with a child 18 years old or younger. Children do not need to be enrolled in a Meriden school to be eligible for one week’s worth of breakfast and lunch.
In addition, families will also get a 10-pack of juice boxes and two gallons of milk.
Stop & Shop also donated 11,000 bottles of hand soap, which will be included in the kits, said Susan Maffe, director of food and nutrition services for Meriden Public Schools.
The distribution will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at eight city schools: Barry, Hanover, Hooker, Pulaski, Putnam, Washington, Lincoln and Maloney. There will be signs informing families where to go and reminding them to maintain social distancing.
If one site runs out of kits, families will be sent to another school, Maffe said. She encouraged families to arrive early.
On Monday, district staff made last minute preparations, stocking long rows of paper bags with cereal, fruit, and other items.
The distribution is a continuation of an ongoing effort by staff in Maffe’s department to ensure families do not go hungry during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’ve done it through the entire pandemic,” Maffe said. For example, during the summer, food services staff distributed more than 700,000 meals to families, she said.
Meriden Public Schools Superintendent Mark Benigni told the Record-Journal families can expect to receive an assortment of meals that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The cost is being funded through a federal grant, Benigni said.
“We want to encourage people to come out. The meals are ready. They are prepared,” Benigni said.
In addition to keeping city families fed during the pandemic, officials also strived to keep food services staff employed and to support local food distribution vendors.
Maffe gave kudos to district staff, who she said have been “tremendous” and “worked so hard” to make the ongoing food distributions happen. She noted that their work never slowed, even during remote learning last spring or the summer break.
“My staff has just worked so long and so hard,” Maffe said, adding she appreciates the support from the city, the Board of Education and community. “We really feel we’ve become an integral part of the school district and the community.”