Spreading hope: Schools, volunteers distribute meals

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
From the left, Aydon Milton, Kyleigh and Kasideigh Perry, and LaNajah Cornish picked up books and meals at New Beginnings in Cambridge. The site, like seven others in the county, is distributing food and other items to help keep children nourished and busy during the school closure.

CAMBRIDGE — School administrators and staffs, along with community volunteers, have responded quickly to the needs of hungry children following school closures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Meals are being packed and distributed at eight sites throughout the county, with the assistance of Mid-Shore Meals til Monday.

All public schools in Dorchester provide free meals to all students, while classes are in session. But when classes are not held, some young people need extra support.

Meals til Monday has for years packed and provided balanced, nutritious meals to feed children over the weekends, when they would not have access to school meals. Now, the private, volunteer group and local schools have teamed up to make sure Dorchester’s children eat well during the closure.

On March 13, students took home two weeks worth of homework. On Thursday, Gov. Hogan prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.

“We’ll be out here every day until school reopens,” Patricia Prosser said Thursday at New Beginnings at the Bay Country Apartments in Cambridge. Ms. Prosser, who is principal of North Dorchester Middle School, led a team of administrators at the location, where they had a school bus loaded with meals.

“We start at 8 a.m. bagging it,” Ms. Prosser said, adding that administrators and cafeteria staff on her crew put together 500 bags every day.

Leslie Bishop, who leads Meals til Monday in the county, said she was troubled by instructions to citizens to stay as isolated as they can, considering her commitment to feeding children. “I can’t stay away from everybody,” she said. “We’re making 800 bags a week.”

Linda Starling is a Meals til Monday volunteer. “We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of help,” she said, running down a mental list of companies and individuals who have offered goods and services.

Word is spreading about the schools’ free breakfast, lunch and dinner bags. They are being distributed to school children ages 4-18 at the Empowerment Center on Pine Street in Cambridge, New Beginnings on Greenwood Avenue, Goodwill Industries parking lot on U.S. 50, Sandy Hill Choptank, Vienna and Hurlock elementary schools, or North Dorchester High School from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. until classes resume.

Meals til Monday will distribute additional bags at each location. Mr. Prosser’s team is also offering free books.

As of March 23, four new sites will be added: Warwick Elementary, South Dorchester School, 1243 Zachary Drive in Foxtail Crossing, and Dorchester County Public Schools Central Office at 700 Glasgow St. in Cambridge. Pick-up times are the same as other sites, 11:00 to 12:30

Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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