By LINDA CHION-KENNEY
To ensure students who qualify for food assistance don’t go hungry during the coronavirus school shutdown, “Grab-and-Go” feeding sites have been established at 23 public schools, including five schools in the south county area.
Grab-and-Go food locations in south Hillsborough County are at East Bay, Lennard and Spoto high schools, in Gibsonton, Ruskin and Riverview, respectively; Rodgers Middle School, in Riverview; and Reddick Elementary School, in Wimauma.
“We feed them on a daily basis, so what makes today any different?” said Ashley Dorsey, at the Grab-and-Go feeding site at Rodgers Middle School on March 24. “We’re keeping our social distance and we’re sanitizing every hour.”
The coronavirus school shutdown, added Dorsey, a student nutrition manager for Hillsborough County Public Schools, “makes it even more important that these students are still eating and still feel like we care about them.”
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., children ages 18 and under at all sites are eligible to receive one package daily with food for both breakfast and lunch. Walk-ups are accepted and food is distributed directly from school buses set up in each school’s designated car lines. For record-keeping purposes, every student or young adult age 18 and under must be present to receive a bagged breakfast and lunch.
Also, to ensure no child goes hungry, Feeding Tampa Bay, a school district partner, has opened “Breakspot Meal Sites” to distribute free breakfast- and lunch-packages, Monday through Friday, to children ages 18 and under.
For south county residents, the closest of the seven Hillsborough County distribution sites are the Bill Carey Brandon Boys & Girls Club (noon to 1 p.m., 510 East Sadie St.) and Feeding Tampa Bay in Tampa (11 a.m. to noon, 4702 Transport Drive, Building No. 6).
According to school officials, about 123,000 students — or 63 percent of the student population — qualify for free- or reduced-price meals, prompting the school district’s Student Nutrition Services Department to institute Grab-and-Go food locations at 23 schools.
East Bay is at 7710 Old Big Bend Road; Lennard, at 2342 East Shell Point Road; Reddick, at 325 West Lake Drive; Rodgers, at 11910 Tucker Road; and Spoto, at 8538 Eagle Palm Drive.
To aid with transportation needs, HART offers free rides to students ages 18 and under with either a school ID or HART Youth ID, on regular routes that service Hillsborough County schools. Find out more at www.goHART.org.
For more on Grab-and-Go, visit: www.hillsboroughschools.org/coronavirus/grabandgo.
For more on Breakspot meals, visit: www.feedingtampabay.org/breakspot-meal-sites-hours.