As pandemic continues, school districts are helping more families in need of food

As pandemic continues, school districts are helping more families in need of food
Posted at 4:30 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 16:30:45-04

Some days the line of cars sitting outside Moore Middle School in Portland, Maine seems to stretch ten-cars deep. Other days, they show up one at a time--all of them filled with families needing help with food in the midst of a global epidemic.

Jay Townsend’s face is the first these families typically see when they pull up to this food distribution center, one of 10 set up across the city. Although Townsend’s face is covered with a mask for protection, he does his best to reassure parents and kids who show up here. Many of them facing food insecurity for the first time in their lives.

“I’m not here to judge; I’m here to help,” he said, as he worked to hand out lunches to a mini-van which had just pulled up.

Since the start of the epidemic, Portland Public Schools have served more than 50,000 meals, filling a critical need for families who are now struggling as more parents are finding themselves unemployed.

“The need is getting greater and greater. More people are feeling the pinch,” explained Jane Mclucas, who serves as the Food Service Director for the district.

It’s a scenario playing out across the country, and for Mclucas getting food to families in need has come with unexpected challenges. They’ve learned that some families don’t have access to transportation, prompting the district to add more distribution sites and consider the possibility of delivering free meals to kids at home.

Nearly 78 percent of students here qualify for free or reduced lunch, and that was before COVID-19 rattled the economy of this picturesque coastal town.

“We have to address this need, because no one can learn when they’re hungry,” Mclucas said.

Instead of planning for summer vacation, districts like Portland are looking ahead to June, July and August, as the need for food is likely only going to continue.

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Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.