ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Many school districts in New York are still providing children with meals while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Ithaca City School District, school bus drivers and food staff are working together to get meals to children each weekday.
It’s still dark when Jennifer Doolittle arrived at the district’s main kitchen on a recent morning. Schools had only been closed for a few days, but the food service staff already had a system in place to get meals to children.
Doolittle leads the team of people getting meals together and said they’ve been sending out buses with about 900 meals each week day. Her first thought was about the kids when she found out schools were closing.
“It’s a little emotional,” she said. “I mean, some of these kids-I feel like they’re my own.”
“They may not be getting a meal at home, that’s heartbreaking,” she added.
According to Beth Krause, director of the district’s Child Nutrition Program, 36 percent of children in the Ithaca City School District are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The district includes some rural areas, like Enfield. It’s a small town six miles from downtown Ithaca.
Ken Facey has been a school bus driver for over 20 years. He said he knows kids and their families, even the names of their pets.
“One thing about this district, whenever it seems to be all-hands-on-deck everybody comes together,” he said. “It’s a tighter family.”
The meals are especially helpful to parents like Aaron Abb, who said he and his wife are grateful their employers are allowing them to continue working from home.
However, having their children home and trying to work full-time has been, at times, chaotic. Their four children are between three- and 13-years-old.
“The meal definitely takes the edge off of having to prepare something extra for the children,” Abb said.