By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Region – School busses in Marlborough will keep running even as the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic shuts down schools themselves.
Rather than shuttling students, though, those busses will now be delivering food as part of Marlborough’s version of now widespread plans to keep local children fed during an unprecedented crisis.
“The Marlborough Public Schools has pledged to continue providing breakfast and lunch to all families in our community,” a statement announcing this program read.
As schools across the region announced closures last week, district leaders, parents and advocates alike openly worried food insecurity could quickly become a major problem.
Across the region, after all, more than 4,500 public school students rely on free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch meals through their schools, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education notes. In some extreme situations, those meals represent the only food students get on a given day.
Knowing that, district leaders quickly assured worried constituents over the weekend of March 14 they would not leave students hungry. As the weekend ended, officials rolled out plans of how they would do that.
“The health, safety, and food security of our students is our first priority, and many members of our team have been working to create options for families who need this support,” Shrewsbury Superintendent of Schools Joe Sawyer said in one such statement announcing his district’s plan.
In Marlborough, the region’s most sprawling plan will deliver two meals a day by bus to 37 drop off locations along traditional elementary school bussing routes throughout the city. Any Marlborough resident under the age of 18 can meet busses at those locations to collect meals “regardless of school enrollment status or any income eligibility status during the regular school year.”
Those who miss the bus or prefer to pick up meals themselves can do so by appointment at the district’s three elementary schools, middle school, or high school.
Westborough and Grafton both announced they’ll hand out lunches at central locations in their district. Northborough/Southborough and Shrewsbury, meanwhile, are offering a similar program but are extending it to qualify all students and families.
Finally, Hudson has patchworked together their own solution through a collaboration with the First United Methodist Church and the local food pantry.
Students receiving free and reduced-price lunch can collect meals from Quinn Middle School on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Then, on Mondays and Thursdays, anyone in need is eligible to receive meals from the First United Methodist Church. There, volunteers are drawing on excess food from Hudson school cafeterias and donating goods to assemble grab and go meals.
With school closures threatening to drag on for weeks or months, many across the region like Hudson First United Methodist Church’s Stacy Hartford are happy to see programs like these coming together.
“We just don’t want kids to go without,” Hartford said.