Eight schools in Frederick County will offer free breakfast and lunch to any child under age 18 for the next two weeks while public schools are closed.

Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools, announced on Thursday that all Maryland public schools would be closed from March 16 to March 27 due to concerns over COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

With more than 5 billion school lunches being served in the U.S. in 2018, many students rely on their school cafeterias to get a hot meal during the day.

In the 2018-2019 school year, more than 2 million lunches were served in Frederick County Public Schools and more than 10,000 FCPS students qualified for free and reduced-price meals, according to Robert Kelly, senior manager of food and nutrition services at FCPS.

Therefore, Kelly said he and his staff knew that not providing meals while schools are closed was not an option, so they began preparing days before the announcement.

The program will operate much like the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Meals Program, with one big difference: Students will be allowed to take their meals home if they wish.

Kelly said grab-and-go lunches will be available as well as containers and other materials to hold meals.

Breakfast and lunch will be served at the following schools Monday through Friday over the next two weeks: Ballenger Creek Elementary, Crestwood Middle, Frederick High, Hillcrest Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Monocacy Elementary, North Frederick Elementary and Waverley Elementary.

Breakfast will be served from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day.

Kelly said the schools were chosen based on USDA regulations that mandate sites have either 50 percent or more children who qualify for free and reduced-price meals and either attend that school or live in the surrounding area.

When asked if students in other areas of the county such as Thurmont and Brunswick are expected to travel to one of these sites to get a meal at school, Superintendent Terry Alban said staff and the Board of Education are working to install satellite sites for meals in those areas.

“Our board members said we really want to try and make sure that we are reaching the whole community,” Alban said.

For the sites that are already established, any child under the age of 18 can visit and receive a meal, regardless of where they are from or whether they qualify for FARM.

“They could be from Montgomery County, they could be from Pennsylvania, they do not need to show any form of ID. This is for all children 18 years or younger,” Kelly said.

Parents can bring young children, including toddlers, and get a meal, but parents themselves will not be able to get a meal.

Breakfast will be all cold items such as muffins or breakfast bars, and lunch will be hot and will consist of items that are popular among students such as pizza and chicken sandwiches, Kelly said.

Cafeteria workers at the chosen schools will continue to come to work and prepare food. If the volume of students is too much for the current staff to handle, Kelly said cafeteria employees from other schools are on call and ready to go in and assist if needed.

Cafeteria workers who are not on call or not on staff at the eight schools will be off for the next two weeks. Kelly said he is working with Central Office to determine whether or not those employees will continue to be paid over the closure.

Kelly also said cafeteria staff who will serve students have been given a refresher course on cleaning practices and regulations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We just have enforced that our staff is being a little more aggressive and just being cautious and more aware,” Kelly said.

He added that despite rising concerns over the coronavirus, he hopes that any and all children will take advantage of the meal service.

“I just hope they do come out. It’s free, and it’s for everybody,” Kelly said. “And now the ability to take the food home with them, that’s just a win-win, I think.”

Hermine Bernstein, a program coordinator for Blessings in a Backpack — a nonprofit that works to feed FCPS students over weekends and breaks — is also working to make sure students have meals.

Bernstein said they have about five days’ worth of food left for students but that volunteers are working to increase that to seven.

For the first week of the closure, the nonprofit will use its blizzard bags and emergency snack bags usually used for snow days to provide enough food for students.

“Our volunteers have been amazing,” Bernstein said.

The nonprofit does not have food for the second week, Bernstein said, but added that the situation is fluid. If enough food is collected for the second week, the challenge then becomes delivering that food to students since they will no longer be physically in school. But Bernstein said she, community partners and volunteers are all working to figure out plans.

A few local Frederick County restaurants have also decided to offer free lunch to school-aged children during the closure.

Canapes Catering on Highland Street in Frederick will offer free meals on weekdays over the next two weeks from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Thurmont Kountry Kitchen on Water Street will offer free meals from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon every weekday over the next two weeks.

Both restaurants offer both dine-in and carryout options.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

(32) comments

Joylee

Where is the location for northern Frederick County?

ma23464

Only the poor kids will show up to eat. So only the poor will be exposed to the virus.

Bagged meals would be a better solution. Pick them up at the front door and eat them at home.

Comment deleted.
llrowse

LAR1 - If only your parents had known the hatred they were bringing into the world

sevenstones1000

Reading these comments. Jesus wept.

llrowse

Yes

Comment deleted.
threecents

Stuff happens. Would you prefer they starve?

DickD

Will the schools limit the occupancy to 250? If not, why are we closing schools?

threecents

They can distribute food without a crowd.

Obadiah Plainsmen

If more than 250 kids show up at one location they better feed them , right Dick or should they turn them away?

Comment deleted.
DickD

You have a point, but would you prefer to see them starve? Do you think that they can learn when they are dying of hunger?

Alice Jones

So, some of the commentators seem to advocate 'leave children behind', 'let them go hungry', 'population control (as viewed by their beady eyes) for those not deemed worthy', etc., etc. It is very easy to see that during times of crisis, some rise to the challenge and some succumb to treachery. History is littered with neighbors turning on each other. For shame.

Comment deleted.
StupidPaywall

Right on![thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Comment deleted.
The Grape of Wrath

Abortions, though safe and legal, still cost money. The later they are the more they cost. Then there's the religious influencers who work to make sure every pregnant poor woman bears another child.

MRS M

Yes, I too have been wondering about social distancing. That was most worrisome yesterday, when our over-fed, corpulent, and very-possibly-infected leader gave his emergency message to the nation, in a photo-op where he deliberately surrounded himself close-in by healthcare business leaders and scientists, proudly shaking hands and showing the nation what he thinks "social distancing" means, like the very predictable idiot he is. You know....social distancing just like they practice out at Mar-A-Lago. And for all those good American citizens and neighbors wanting to maintain some semblance of humanity during this crisis, why not take care of indigent children during this crisis? Our leader showed true compassion when he took care of the top 2% with his tax cuts to the uber-wealthy. Shouldn't we all be so caring for the "least among us"? Seriously....what would Jesus....or Mike Pence..........have to say about taking care of at-risk children?

Comment deleted.
KR999

Gee, the Sore Losers sure are out this morning. [lol]

Obadiah Plainsmen

Here is some advice from Martin Luther when bubonic plague was sweeping Europe in the 15-1600's

Particularly the last sentence

"Very well, by God's decree, the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore, I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely."

LAR1

Where is the social distancing in this photo?

The Grape of Wrath

If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely.

Comment deleted.
sevenstones1000

How’s that time machine you’ve invented working?

BunnyLou

I thought the whole idea was to not have mass gatherings.

KR999

Really, I don't get it either, Bunny. Especially letting out of county kids participate.

sevenstones1000

Yes, for the love God, let’s not feed children.

User1

Yes, PARENTS, for the love of GOD, feed your children! We close the schools to avoid crowds. So now the parents have to bring their kids to school, twice a day, so they can get fed. Why can’t these parents just feed their kids at home??? Because it’s FREE!

KR999

Why can't MoCo and PA feed their own kids, seven?

llrowse

User1 - There are many families that are so poor, that supplying breakfast, and lunch is more than the family can handle. Sometimes parents spend their money on drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and other poor choices. Some of the home environments these children endure are beyond belief. Sometimes parents aren’t paid enough, or can’t find a job. Whatever the circumstance, **children should not suffer because of circumstances they cannot control**

The Grape of Wrath

If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely."

KR999

And your point for posting this three times is...……….?

llrowse

❤️Thank you for caring for our children.

KMRD1

Really out of town people??

User1

Sure, why not. Even though Fredneck county doesn’t have any confirmed cases of the virus let’s import it from out of county and out of state! Smart move FCPS!

Comment deleted.
llrowse

❤️

Comment deleted.
llrowse

❤️

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