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Grateful families pick up meals
Julia P. Bryant Elementary School staff distributes breakfast and lunch bags on Tuesday, March 17 as one of over 30 Bulloch County Schools remote feeding sites to provide meals to to children 18-under while schools are closed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

With much uncertainty and new challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic arising seemingly hourly, school systems across the country are scrambling to provide needed food to children for an extended period of time.

Bulloch County Schools joined the ranks of others in that unfamiliar territory, and quickly formulated a plan to provide breakfast and lunch sack meals for students, and distribute the first meals at 30 different sites around Bulloch on Tuesday.

Sabrina Fields picked up sacks of food Tuesday in the Statesboro Public Library parking lot for the four kids she had in tow, ages 2, 5, 6 and 10, who attend Langston Chapel Elementary School. Thrilled for the opportunity to take care of her kids’ meals, Fields said that the pick-up spot was convenient and easily accessed.

“With everything going on around us, just trying to keep updated with the virus, it’s great not to have to focus on cooking,” Fields said. “It’s time-saving and now I can focus on my kids.

“It’s life-saving for my family. The kids are worried. They don’t understand what’s going on,” Fields said.

Bulloch County Schools have two prep-sites for the students’ meals, Julia P. Bryant School and Portal Middle/High School. Prepped meals are loaded onto school buses and transported to more than 20 sites in the community, with designated times at each location.

“It’s been an interesting few days,” said Troy Brown, Bulloch County Board of Education assistant superintendent of Business Services.

“We just want to take care of our people and our children,” Brown said.

Shawn Diddie and her 10-year-old daughter, who attends Mill Creek Elementary School, biked to the library parking lot to pick up sack meals, choosing to combine a bit of exercise with the meal retrieval.

“This is great,” Diddie said. “Everybody could use this help, and some are in more dire straights than us. People are worried how they’re going to feed their kids. Some people can’t work right now. This is a big help.”

In less than the 30 minutes allotted for the library parking lot, all of the meals were distributed. A quick phone call by Brown to the prep site brought more, and a handful of families in cars waited patiently for the arrival.

Director of Food Services, Megan Blanchard, said there is no way to know exactly how many meals are needed at each location, and food services will adjust the numbers and counts after the initial distributions days.

Thearika Powell, her Pre-K Mattie Lively niece, and her Mill Creek second-grade son waited briefly on meals and were happy to receive them.

“This is a blessing,” Powell said. “The hospitality work is slow because of the virus, so I’m temporarily out of work.”

Powell said the meals she picked up on Tuesday would carry her through a couple of days, but she would most likely come to the site every other day to get meals for the kids.

One mom, a Georgia Southern University employee who was working from home, walked with her two kids to the Julia P. Bryant site. Getting meals for her Cedarwood student and William James student, the mom said she was most excited to come during her lunch break, just to get out of the house.

“It’s hard trying to work from home, with kids with a lot of bottled-up energy,” she said. “This is a huge help.”

The virus was rarely mentioned in the brief meal pick-up by families, though some adults spoke of the uncertainty of the situation. All appeared grateful, with signs of relief and appreciation evident on most faces.

“We’ve seen a lot of smiles today,” Brown said.


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