Public schools across the state have been shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, but that has not stopped Shippensburg Area School District from stepping up and generously providing all students with free nutritious breakfast and lunch meals throughout the week.

Since Tuesday, the SASD Food Services Department has been handing out breakfasts and lunches for any child ages 18 and younger.

Shippensburg schools are currently closed through March 27, and students and families in need can pick up the free meals outside of the high school or James Burd Elementary School, from 7 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, until school is back in session. The menu and distribution schedule are subject to change based on supply and demand.

Shippensburg High School Cafeteria Manager BJ Brink, and Intermediate School Cafeteria Manager Amy Zimmerman were in good spirits Tuesday as they handed out strawberry pancakes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the high school.

Brink noted they have been working on making this happen since last Wednesday, and have ordered a larger quantity of food than usual.

“We developed a menu on Wednesday, and we ordered five pallets of food. Some of that is routine food, not just for the meals that we are handing out,” said Brink. “We had a large amount of food prepared. We also pulled the food from other buildings.”

Families noted Tuesday how grateful they are to be able to still receive the meals during the closure.

Russell Miley, who stopped with his daughter, noted, “I think it’s a good idea. There’s probably a lot of families in need.”

Maribel Escobar stopped by to pick up meals for her five children.

“It’s nice because at least we get to get the kids out and not be stuck at home.”

There is no need to sign up or register for the free meal. You may simply drive up to the curb and your children’s breakfast and lunch meals will be handed to you.

“It’s nice because there’s no application, you can serve the food and that’s it,” said SASD Business Administrator Cristy Lentz.

“I'm proud to be able to come together in this time of need,” Lentz added. “The food service staff deserves a big kudos. The board really appreciates it.”

With students receiving this opportunity, Superintendent Dr. Chris Suppo expresses his appreciation for the support of the community coming together to give a helping hand.

He wrote in an email to The News-Chronicle Tuesday, “I am very proud that during these difficult times, so many in the Shippensburg Community have turned their attention to serving those in need over their own personal concerns.”

He added, “Collaboration among agencies is key to best leverage resources. Partnering with the Shippensburg Community Resource Coalition will enable families to obtain food and nutrition needs not only during the week, but also on the weekend by providing ‘Hound Packs.’”

SASD is partnered with the SCRC to provide seven meals for each child over the weekend during the school year. The food is stored at the Shippensburg First Church of God every week.

The National School Lunch Act allows students who qualify to receive free or reduced school lunches.

Brink noted, “It’s for the same reason we give free meals during the school day. Some families just need the help.”

SASD is in partnership with Chartwells, a food service company that provides school lunches for districts.

Food Services Director Jared Ford noted his thoughts on the free meals program during the school closure.

“It’s nice we can offer the program, and students don’t have to be from Shippensburg. They can be from another district, and we will still provide them with meals,” he said. “I feel the community is doing really well coming together in those of need. I’m very pleased with staff cooperation.”

Shippensburg School Board Vice President Dr. Geno Torri stopped by Tuesday morning to check how things were going.

“I just wanted to stop by to see the efficiency,” he said. “We appreciate the responsible volunteers who are helping out.”

As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, they handed out roughly 40 meals. Brink noted that James Burd informed them they handed out around 50 meals.

Ford added, “I’d say we’re doing well for the first day.”

To view free meals, visit: www.facebook.com/289173377950337/photos/a.301707743363567/1349128428621488/?type=3&theater.

For more information on the SASD Food Services Department, visit: www.shipk12.org/food-services.

For more information on the Hound Packs Program, visit: www.shipresources.org/hound-packs-program.

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