Groups banding together to feed kids while school is out

From left, Ozzie, 4, Stephanie and Patrick Reese (Kaizen Karate owners) organize food supplies donated by local businesses and individuals for distribution to children in need. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — When public schools were directed to close for two weeks on Friday, Stephanie Preece knew she had an army of people who could fill the gap to feed students.

“We do know that there are a significant number of students that rely on the schools for breakfast and lunch in Capital and Caesar Rodney,” she said. “They have food trucks but they aren’t able to mobilize as quickly as independent people can.”

So she — and numerous others in the state — mobilized.

Mrs. Preece and her husband, Patrick, own Kaizen Karate Academy, Kaizen Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Ignite Fitness Kickboxing, which have about 500 students, creating a network of families.

“We have an army of people who are amazing and all we have to do is ask for help,” she said.

Through the weekend, they began collecting food through their businesses. On Monday morning, around 30 people volunteered to help pack food bags. By 10:30 a.m., the group was delivering approximately 2,500 bags of food to the community.

That helped fill a void as public school districts coordinated their efforts.

While many districts have announced plans to feed their school populations, a number of programs don’t begin until today or Wednesday. District-run programs also omit Saturday and Sunday.

Alison May, a spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Education, said in an email that meal distribution sites “are being planned for areas that feed into low-income schools (where more than 50 percent of students qualify for free/reduced meals) or are in low income areas per census tract data.”

The decision is per the Summer Food Service Program Federal regulations, she added.

As of Monday afternoon, every downstate school district had announced a plan to make food available to students Monday through Friday.

For the Caesar Rodney and Capital student populations, Mrs. Preece said that her group planned to address the gaps, providing food to areas that aren’t included in the district listings and delivering over the weekend.

Food will be delivered to the old Boys and Girls Club at 10:30 a.m. at Simon Circle; the Community Center in Capital Park at 11:30 a.m.; Capital Inn by Chick-Fil-A at 12:30 p.m.; Manchester Square at Beacon Avenue at 1:30 p.m.; and at Dover Inn at 2:30 p.m.

Stephanie and Patrick Reese (Kaizen Karate owners) and daughter Ozzie, 4, organize food supplies donated by local businesses and individuals for distribution to children in need.

Food will be delivered in the black Kaizen Karate Truck.

So far the community has donated 10,000 food items, Mrs. Preece said and they plan to continue aid as long as they can. Donations will be accepted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kaizen Karate facility at 35 Commerce Way, Suite 2.

“I spent the last however many years of my life trying to give back because I was also one of those kids who relied on the state for being fed and we lived in public housing when I was small, so I’ve just always felt it was my responsibility to give back, because I had received so much along the way,” Mrs. Preece said.

Others around the state felt called for the same purpose.

Beginning today, Nancy’s Cafe in Milford is giving out homemade soups and bread free of charge between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

At Nancy’s, there are no conditions and the cafe is not limiting it to age, but owner Nancy Chirdon Forster noted the idea stemmed from Milford School District closing for two weeks.

“I’m hoping that all together, we’ll be able to provide enough food for those who need it,” Ms. Forster said. “We have tons of folks here that need help, like every community.”

Ms. Forster grew up in the Air Force community, a close-knit group. She even decided to open her business in Milford because there was that same camaraderie.

“Particularly growing up the way I was, being Air Force, my father and mother always emphasized service and volunteerism. It’s just part of my DNA,” she said. “If you’re enthusiastic about it, you can get other people enthused about it, and it’s because we’ve become so distant, this is an opportunity to bring us together.”

Ms. Forster said she served as the personal assistant to first lady Betty Ford in the White House, who, she said, was very involved in volunteerism and service.

“She would do an awful lot, and I was there; I was working closely with her so I saw that in action,” she said. “And I saw just how much impact one person can have.”

Kee’s Cookies and Cupcakes in Clayton is also following suit. The desserterie accepted donations of food and money and then put together bags to serve their community. The effort began on Monday and will continue as long as students are out of school, said Niya Bolden, owner of Kee’s.

Ms. Bolden, who was born and raised in the community and graduated from Smyrna High School, noted the saying: “Smyrna Strong.”

“It’s always the philosophy of when one person’s down, the whole community is going with that one person up until they get to where they need to be,” she said.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, the business will be handing out bags of food. Monday’s offerings included a sandwich, carrots, ramen noodles, chips, snacks and water.

Ms. Bolden said they plan to have other items throughout the week. She added that on Friday, if they see a need, they may offer additional food to get through the weekend.

“You never know what people are going through until stuff like this happens and you give back,” she said, noting that one woman who came through the line with her children wasn’t able to take ramen noodles. She couldn’t cook them, she explained, because she didn’t have access to a microwave or stovetop.

“If we didn’t do this today, we would have never known that family needed help,” she said. “We’re reaching out to our other resources and getting her the help that she needs.”

In Rehoboth Beach, Nicola Pizza also will be lending support.

From 11 a.m. to noon, the restaurant will give out a slice of pizza, apple sauce and milk to children. They’ll give spaghetti to children if they have a dairy allergy, said Nick Caggiano, owner of Nicola Pizza.

It is open to children only, and the child has to be present to accept the meal.

He said that Kelly Munyan, the general manager for the pizzeria, brought the idea to him and he couldn’t say no.

“Our community is really what put me here. We started selling pizza out of the back door of our house 50 years ago and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the community,” he said. “We try to give back as much as we can.”

“I can’t teach them, but I can at least be sure they have some food,” he added.

The Salvation Army also plans to help fill the gap in seven different communities, as Seaford School District will not provide lunch until Wednesday.

Salvation Army Lt. Kathryn Alban noted the burden this puts on some parents, especially those who work.

“What do they do?” she said. “It’s difficult right now.”

The Salvation Army is serving communities in Laurel, Seaford and in Bridgeville, Lt. Alban said.

“We are serving lunches and dinner because a lot of the kids that are in these communities that we are going to, come to our kids’ program,” she said.

Two weeks ago, the Salvation Army started a five-day children’s program called “SA Kids” who come to the Salvation Army building after school each day. The students get help with homework, learn piano, and learn vocal and musical lessons.

“They were coming for the past two weeks so we usually give them a snack and a meal two days of the week for dinner. So, because they are not coming to us for that, we have the goal to take the meals out to them for dinner as well,” said Lt. Alban.

The Salvation Army is serving Laurel Village at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., Blades Park at 11:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m., Meadow Bridge Apartments at 12:10 p.m. and 5:10 p.m., Chandler Heights Apartments at 12:40 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. and Seaford Meadows at 1:10 p.m. and 6:10 p.m., all in Seaford.

In Bridgeville, Canterbury will be served at 1:35 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. and Laverty Lane at 1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

“We will be serving both lunch and dinner. So, we kind of have two waves of volunteers going out,” Lt. Alban said.

Meals are prepared at the TSA’s Sussex Corps base on Sussex Highway in Seaford and will be distributed by The Salvation Army’s identifiable Canteen vehicle.

“Each evening we will be preparing and packing up the lunches, so they are ready to go in the morning. Then, starting at noon we start to go into the dinner,” said Lt. Alban.

When the Seaford School District starts to serve, Lt. Alban said the Salvation Army will support two different Seaford communities for the children: Meadow Bridge and Seaford Meadows.

Meanwhile, many districts are rolling out plans to address their populations.

On Monday, the Delaware Department of Education announced that it received a waiver from the federal government to allow school nutrition programs to provide meals to students during the closure.

In Woodbridge School District, food service began on Monday. Other districts will begin offering free food today and Wednesday.

“We were fortunate to have a [Professional Development] day on Friday and kind of saw what was coming,” said Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov. “So, we were planning and hoping to do it as early as possible. The timing actually worked out well for us for what we are about to face.”

Mr. Chasanov said the district is modeling its program after the summer food program.

“What we have done is, with three of our four schools, we have set up like drive-bys. They come up, we hand it to them and they move on. So, we are avoiding any crowds that way,” he said.

Other districts will be serving food in similar grab-and-go iterations. Locations and times vary per district.

Community support
Kaizen Karate Truck, Through March 22 (and as donations last)

Children 17 and younger
10:30 a.m. — Old Boys and Girls Club at Simon Circle
11:30 a.m. — Community Center in Capital Park
12:30 p.m. — Capital In by Chick-Fil-A
1:30 p.m. — Manchester Square at Beacon Avenue
2:30 p.m. — Dover Inn

Nancy’s Cafe, 22 S Walnut St., Milford, March 17 until further notice
Open to anyone
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kee’s Cookies and Cupcakes, 308 Main St., Clayton, March 16, until students are back in school
School-age children
11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday

Nicola Pizza, 8 North 1st St., Rehoboth Beach, March 17 through March 27
Children 18 and younger
11 a.m. to noon

Salvation Army, through Wednesday. Details to change after Wednesday.
11 a.m. and 4 p.m. — Laurel Village
11:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. — Blades Park
12:10 p.m. and 5:10 p.m. — Meadow Bridge Apartments
12:40 p.m. and 5:40 p.m. — Chandler Heights Apartments
1:10 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. — Chandler Heights Apartments
1:35 p.m. and 6:35 p.m. — Canebury
1:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. — Laverty Lane

School meal options
Appoquinimink School District
Tuesday, March 17 through reopening, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Louis L. Redding Middle School, 201 New Street, Middletown.
Any child or young person age 1 through 18 is free; do not need to attend Appoquinimink schools to participate.

Caesar Rodney School District
Tuesday, March 17 through reopening
W. Reily Brown Elementary: 8 to 8:30 a.m. and 11 to 11:30 a.m.
Brecknock County Park: 8:40 to 9:10 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.
Dover Air Base Park: 9 to 9:30 a.m. and noon to 12:30 p.m.
Allen Frear Elementary: 9:30 to 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Meals will be provided to all students of the Caesar Rodney School District and/or any children 18 years of age or younger without charge.

Cape Henlopen School District
Wednesday, through reopening, 11 a.m. to noon at H.O. at Brittingham Elementary School.
All families residing within the district can pick up meals, however a child must be present.

Capital School District
Wednesday, March 18 through reopening
52 different locations, for full list, visit bitly.com/csdstayhealthy.
Food will be delivered by school buses and the Senator food trucks.
Medication: Tuesday, March 17, 9 a.m. to noon at each school
In the event families may need a different pick-up time all medications will be transferred to the district office.

Delmar School District
Renovate Church, 800 East East Street, Delmar, Md., open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Indian River School District
Wednesday through April 9, the district will have breakfast and lunch available for pick up.
Old Dagsboro Fire Hall: 11:30 to noon
Fenwick Island Baptist Church: 11:25 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.
Frankford Park parking lot: 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
Georgetown Middle School: 10:45 a.m. to noon
Gumboro Community Center: 12:20 to 12:55 p.m. for breakfast, 12:25 to 12:50 p.m. for lunch
IRVFD No 1: 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. for breakfast, 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for lunch
IRVFD No. 2: 11:20 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Millsboro Middle School: 10:45 a.m. to noon
North Georgetown Elementary School: 10:45 a.m. to noon
Selbyville Police Station: 10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
Medication: Tuesday, March 17, a school nurse will be on site at each school from 8 to 10 a.m. so parents are able to pick up their child’s medication from the school may do so at that time.

Lake Forest School District
Wednesday through reopening, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at East Elementary School, North Elementary School and South Elementary School
Medication: The nurse’s office at each location will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. A parent or guardian can only pick up medication with proper identification.

Laurel School District
Wednesday, through reopening, Noon until 1 p.m.
Laurel Elementary School at the parent drop-off and pick-up line by cafeteria
North Laurel Early Learning Academy and the bus parking lot by cafeteria
One lunch/breakfast will be provided per child to anyone who is 18 years of age or younger. The child does not have to be a student at Laurel schools to participate. The child must be present to receive the meal, but the parent does not have to.

Milford School District
Wednesday, through reopening, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Banneker Elementary, Mispillion Elementary and Morris Early Childhood Center.
Children must be present with their family to receive the meals. Over the next couple of days, the district will be working with local organizations to expand food services for families.

Seaford School District
Wednesday, March 18.
Clarence Street Church of God from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Seaford District Library from 12:35 p.m. to 1:35 p.m.
Blades Park from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
St. John’s UMC from 12:35 p.m. to 1:35 p.m.
Seaford School District will be at each site for an hour. Meals are for children 18 years old and younger.
The Salvation Army will provide meals for Seaford Meadows Apartments & Meadowbridge Apartments starting Monday, March 16.
Students must be present in order to receive the food. Parents do not.

Smyrna School District
Wednesday, through reopening, Noon to 12:30 p.m. at Smyrna High School, North Smyrna Elementary School, Smyrna Elementary School and Commerce Square.

Woodbridge School District
Monday, through reopening
Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center: noon to 12:30 p.m.
Phillis Wheatley Elementary School: noon to 12:30 p.m.
Walkers Mill (11365 2nd Street, Bridgeville): 12:30 to 1 p.m.
Coverdale Community Center: 1 to 1:30 p.m.
Just a Hand Up (12603 Nat Turn St., Bridgeville): 1 to 1:30 p.m.
Food will be provided to children 18 and under at no charge at a first-come-first-serve basis.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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