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Schools step up to the plate during coronavirus closures

By Brandon Martin

In response to the continual spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered school closures for K-12 students for a minimum of two weeks beginning March 13.

The school closures provide extra stain on families of students who rely on free or reduced price lunches but schools in Martinsville, and Henry and Patrick Counties are stepping up to the plate.

Patrick and Henry counties are also offering options to students via a survey link shared on their respective social media and website pages.

Patrick County is offering breakfast and lunch, packaged together, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday for the week of March 23-28. Families may choose their pick-up location from a list of the county’s schools or to contact the student’s school if pick-up is not an option for the family.

The link for Henry County allows for families to have meals delivered to them by bus.

Families were required to complete the survey by March 16 at 5 p.m., in order to allow cafeteria and bus personnel to plan accordingly.

Martinsville City School Nutrition Services will be offering free lunches and a snack to students 18 years-old or younger from March 18-27.

The meals will be provided in to-go bags or boxes. In order to receive the free meal, a student must be present because parents and caregivers will not be allowed to pick up the meals for the students. Adults may also purchase meals for $3.50.

The to-go meals may be picked up between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., at Patrick Henry Elementary School on 1810 East Church Street, and at Albert Harris Elementary School on 710 Smith Road in Martinsville.

The city is also deploying school buses to deliver meals along normal bus routes during the same time period as the pick-up locations. The buses will not stop at each individual location but will stop at centralized locations along the route.

Some relief may come from the federal government as well following the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The act will include a general provision that allows the Department of Agriculture to approve state plans providing emergency Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) food assistance to households that would normally receive free or reduced-priced meals if their schools weren’t closed due to COVID-19. To be eligible, the student’s school must have been closed for no less than five consecutive days.

The act also allocates $500 million to provide access to nutritious meals to low-income pregnant women or mothers with younger children who are laid off or who lose their jobs because of COVID-19.

It also provides $400 million to assist local food banks meet the increased demand for low-income Americans. Of the funds, $300 million will go to actually purchasing the foods and the additional $100 million will go to storage and distribution costs.

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