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RCSD working with community partners on free meal programs in case schools shutdown

Patrick Moussignac
Created: March 11, 2020 05:41 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Monroe County School leaders are preparing for all sorts of scenarios including the potential for a prolonged shutdown. 

One big question: How will tens of thousands of children who are part of free meal programs be fed if schools are forced to shut down?   

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It's a plan the Rochester City School District says it's been working on. District Spokesperson Carlos Garcia calls this a very fluid situation but says some plans are already in the works.

"At this point, we have identified several sites in terms of schools, as well as the Rec Centers that are attached to our schools to be able to distribute meals in case it is necessary," Garcia said.

He says the district is working with its partners. One of them being Foodlink, located here in Rochester. 

Julia Tedesco, the organization's CEO, says it can definitely step up to the plate to ensure these children will have enough to eat every day.

"We know that they're in planning stages," Tedesco said. She continued, "We are planning as well, but we want them to know that we are prepared as possibly be, and ready and willing to step up in the event that they do need to close, and need a contingency plan for feeding these children."

Tedesco says Foodlink's cooking staff already prepares up to 5,000 hot meals a day for area school-aged children. In fact, they can prepare up to 20,000 per shift.

"We have a community kitchen that already produces thousands of meals every single day, and we are ready and prepared to ramp up operations. Run back to back shifts if needed," Tedesco said.

Foodlink has contingency plans of its own if the county discourages large gathering areas.

"If we need community drop points for food for pre-packaged meals, we're willing to attempt that. If we need communal meals we'll meet the district where they are," Tedesco said.

The plan also extends to their organization if members of the cooking staff are stricken with the virus, and forced to stay home as well.

"Members of our staff that are normally in the community doing nutrition education, or other programs will be redirected to help us prepare meals, and get out emergency food to our partners," Tedesco said.

Tedesco says Foodlink serves 10 different counties here in the region, and unlike donations to help the general population, all the food they provide to their partner schools is purchased.


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