Today the feeding of students will get underway across the region.
All three school districts — Martinsville City Public Schools, Henry County Public Schools and Patrick County Schools — are setting in motion plans to help feed those students who rely on the school systems for most of their meals while the schools are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All three systems have high percentages of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and the demand is significant and the problems of service problematic given the need to maintain social distancing.
The systems have set up various programs that include opening school cafeterias and using school buses to deliver meals. Schools have been closed by Gov. Ralph Northam for two weeks, but speculation is that the closures almost certainly will continue beyond that date — and perhaps significantly.
MCPS will begin free food delivery and curbside pick-up for students age 18 and under beginning Wednesday. Adults may purchase a meal and snack for $3.50. That service will continue on weekdays as long as the mandated closure is in effect.
School buses also will be used to deliver meals in city neighborhoods, but students must be present at the bus stop in order to receive a meal. Parents and caretakers may not pick-up a free meal for the student.
Meals may also be picked up “curb-side” at Patrick Henry Elementary and Albert Harris Elementary from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Henry County Public Schools plans to begin free meal delivery this week to the homes of students whose families signed up online. School officials are in the process of contacting families to schedule delivery.
A link to the online survey can be found on the HCPS Facebook page or at https://hcschools.iad1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6tkBKKU3C6AMIpD.
HCPS earlier had estimated delivery times will be shared directly with families who express a desire for delivered meals as soon as routes are available. On weekends, HCPS spokesperson Monica Hatchett has said there are several local organization working to offer options.
Patrick County Public Schools is offering free meal delivery or pickup at schools today and Friday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for children ages 1 to 18.
Families are asked to sign up online at http://www.patrick.k12.va.us. Those without internet access can contact their child’s school to request school meals. In addition, children must be present in order to receive a school meal.
Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt