Free backpacks, school supplies, vaccinations offered in Meriden

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MERIDEN — Meriden Public Schools and Firefighters Local 1148 are partnering to provide the annual Back to School Expo along with weekend meals on Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Jessica Schellhas, dietician for Meriden Public Schools, said the event will take place at John Barry Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School and Maloney High School.

Schellhas is excited for the partnership and for this weekend’s meals as they will include some summer items.

“It’s going to be an extra special, fun weekend meal bag,” Schellhas said. “We are actually going to be sending home a barbecue in a bag meal kit. So it’s going to have some fun barbecue meals in there.”

Firefighters will be present at the three schools to give away 700 backpacks filled with school supplies. 

Schellhas said a child does have to be present to receive a backpack, but meals can be picked up by a child or a parent.

“We love our community and we love feeding our community especially during such a crazy year but we are especially happy to have this partnership with the Local 1148 Firefighters,” Schellhas said.

Meriden Public Schools has been providing breakfast and lunch to children throughout the pandemic, both during school days and weekends.

On Aug. 20, each child will be able to receive 23 meals in an effort to “bridge the gap between summer ending and school starting.”

Schellhas said the plan is to distribute 4,500 meal bags on that day.

She said the meals that are given on a daily basis are not limited to Meriden children. Residents of other towns will also be fed.

According to Schellhas, because of the large Latino population in town, most of the meal distribution sites have had and will continue to have a Spanish speaking staff member to communicate with parents and answer questions about the program.

Vaccines and backpacks

The Meriden Department of Health and Human Services and the Community Health Center have also partnered to offer two vaccine clinics in which students age 12 and older will be able to go home with a backpack full of school supplies.

The first clinic will take place on Aug. 5 from 11 a.m. to  2 p.m.  at Lincoln Middle School. The second clinic will run on Aug. 7 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Meriden Green Pop-Up Market. One hundred backpacks will be given each day to students who get vaccinated on site.

The Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be offered with no appointment requirement. Second dose appointments will also be scheduled on site.

Lea Crown, director of Health and Human Services, said the backpack giveaway is an incentive to encourage students to get vaccinated.

She explained that of Meriden’s eligible population, 59.78% have received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. When it comes to children age 12 to 15, 48.25% have had at least the first dose.

The lower percentage among the younger population is because the vaccine hasn’t been available for as long as it has for other age groups, Crown said.

She stressed the Aug. 5 and 7 clinics are particularly important because they will allow students to be fully vaccinated before the start of the school year.

“We hope as many people as possible can get vaccinated before the start  of school,” Crown said.

ksantos@record-journal.com203-317-2364Twitter: @KarlaSantosNews

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