By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The popular “Grab-and-Go” food assistance program that fed thousands of school-aged children during the coronavirus pandemic school shutdown is continuing through July 30 with the same mission in mind.
According to superintendent Addison Davis, school employees served more than 5.5 million meals during the online learning period forced by the school shutdown, “which talks to the ever-growing need within our community and how the school district plays an active role to continue to support every one of our learners, to make certain they have the nutritious meals to be intellectually sharp during the E-learning process.”
In all, Davis said, the Grab-and-Go program involved 147 sites, 150 school buses and 3,000 routes into the community.
At the June 9 school board meeting, Davis introduced the summer meal program, in place now at 78 schools. It runs through July 30.
Grab-and-Go school site locations in Riverview are at Collins, Dawson, Riverview, Sessums and Summerfield Crossing elementary schools; Giunta Middle School; and Spoto High School. In Ruskin, food distribution is at Ruskin Elementary School, Shields Middle School and Lennard High.
Rounding out the south county Grab-and-Go school sites are East Bay High in Gibsonton, Doby Elementary School in Apollo Beach and Reddick Elementary School in Wimauma.
The hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Children ages 18 and under (and 21 and under for children and young adults with special needs) are eligible for the no-cost Grab-and-Go meals. Children do not have to be present to get their bagged meals. Parents and guardians must provide the student’s ID number, or they can provide date-of-birth verification for children not enrolled in the public school system.
Bagged food includes lunch for that day plus breakfast for the next day. The Thursday bag includes meals for both Thursday and Friday.
“They have a cold bag option for Friday, but Monday through Thursday, what will be different now is it will be a hot, warm meal for every one of the families,” Davis said. “I was there the other day; we had cheeseburgers, carrots and you name it. It was a really nice meal and kids were excited.”
In addition to the school site locations, the school district continues “to serve and provide meals to 34 parks within our community,” Davis said, “and at the same time makes certain it has 21 mobile locations in order to better support our community.”
For more on the Grab-and-Go program, visit https://bit.ly/2ULyFom.
During the school year, Hillsborough County Student Nutrition Services provides free breakfast for all students. Lunch costs $2.25 and $2.75, respectively, for elementary and secondary school students. According to school officials, about 123,000 students — or 63 percent of the student population — qualify for free- or reduced-price meals. For more on school meal benefits and to apply, visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/41 or call 813-840-7066. The application for the new school year opens July 1.
The Student Nutrition Services Department operates as a self-supporting, $143 million enterprise. More than 1,700 employees serve more than 232,000 meals to students. Nutrition substitutes are now being hired to work five, six or seven hours a day, no nights or weekends. Free training is provided and employees get a free lunch on the days they work a five-hour shift or longer. To apply, visit https://bit.ly/3fpAa3z.