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Cleveland recreation centers closed over coronavirus concerns; after-school meal program suspended

Federal law needed to create carry-out meals program
Posted at 10:22 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 09:19:16-04

CLEVELAND — Thousands of Cleveland families will again feel the growing burden of coronavirus related closings after all 21 of the city's recreation centers were closed on March 16 due to CODIV-19 health concerns.

The closing of the recreation centers also includes the suspension of the after-school meals program, which city leaders said services more than 3,000 Cleveland students.

Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell told News 5 Glenville and Cory recreation centers have been shut down in his ward and it's a big loss to families which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

“We’ve got to get this done, this is very, very urgent, there’s a need and it’s urgent,” Conwell said.

“If there’s a breakdown in this system here, it will hurt our children and our children need the food, as a matter of fact they depend on it.”

“There’s a huge need, there’s a lot of shelter poverty and adjunct poverty and the kids need the food here at the center."

Jared Buerger, Director of After-School Nutrition with the Children's Hunger Alliance, told News 5 his agency administers the after-school meal program at Cleveland recreation centers.

Buerger said his agency is working with the Ohio Department of Education to get the program switched over the a take-home meal program for families.

But Buerger said it would first require the federal government to approve the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which would determine if the funding could be used for students to take meals home.

“But here we are during this unprecedented time, we’ve never really seen before and we have no idea when students are getting meals,” Buerger said.

“Right now, students have to eat meals on-site, we’re working with Ohio Department of Education to make sure students take meals in a grab-and-go setting home."

Buerger said vendors are standing by for the passage of the federal legislation, once that happens, a carry-out after-school meal program could be up and running in less than a week.

As of March 17, the measure was still being considered by the senate in Washington DC.

Updates on the status of the Cleveland meal program can be found the Children's Hunger Alliance website.