US Rep. Richard Neal, School Superintendent Daniel Warwick visit Springfield food pickup site
Springfield schools feed 30,000 children breakfast and lunch every day, but only a fraction of those students are stopping at designated sites offering meals to students while classes remain closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have 14 sites spread out across the city and and have served about 825 families so far this week, although we expect that to increase,” said Daniel Warwick, superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools.
Warwick met with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., on Thursday afternoon to speak with Sodexo and school employees serving the food and families picking up the meals to go.
“They get a breakfast and a lunch for each student as well as two milks,” said Mark McCann, the principal at Lincoln Elementary School, one of the designated sites.
The food is packaged in brown paper bags and plastic containers and families are buzzed into the school where they pick up the food and leave. There is no eating on site.
Grab-n-Go meals are currently available at Bowles, Chestnut Middle School, Commerce, Dorman, Glickman, Indian Orchard, Kensington, Liberty, Lincoln, Rebecca Johnson, South End, Talmage, Warner and Washington schools.
“One of the most important things to come out of the legislation was the issue of food security. As you know millions of children across the nation depend on their food security from the one or two meals a day that are delivered through their local school systems,” Neal said. “We wanted to make sure that that process was not interrupted."
In Springfield, all children qualify for free breakfast and lunch because many live below the poverty line.
“For those communities who do not qualify there is an opportunity to grant a waiver pretty quickly and we are going to alert the governor’s office that there is a provision that allows for a waiver if only 50 percent or fewer participants in a school system receive free breakfast and lunch in the schools,” he said.
Neal said with so much uncertainty it is important for children to have some sort of routine and daily meals is a part of that.
“We are trying to demonstrate some stability in this time of great turmoil and we understand that food security and good nutrition for the youngest and most vulnerable is part of the mission statement we have developed,” he said.
Originally, Springfield schools were requesting that children accompany their parent or guardian to pick up the lunch, but that requirement has been waived.
“A parent or guardian can now come in and grab the meals without their child present,” McCann said.
He said he anticipating the number of people coming to get meals to go up as the days go by.
“The food is available and we certainly want all of our students to take advantage of it if they need it,” he said. “We see more families every day.”