Meriden school system distributes meals for Tuesday vacation

By Michael Gagne

Record-Journal Staff

MERIDEN – Local school authorities are hoping to help make a difficult break a little less difficult for many families.

As such, staff from the School District’s Food and Nutrition Services Department will distribute approximately 4,500 kits, totaling approximately 63,000 meals, to any family with a child 18 years of age or younger. Children do not need to be enrolled in a Meriden school to be eligible for a week of breakfast and lunch.

Additionally, families will also receive a 10-pack of juice boxes and two gallons of milk.

Stop & Shop has also donated 11,000 bottles of hand soap, which will be included in the kits, said Susan Maffe, director of food and nutrition services at Meriden Public Schools.

The distribution will take place Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m. at eight schools in the city: Barry, Hanover, Hooker, Pulaski, Putnam, Washington, Lincoln and Maloney. There will be signs advising families where to go and reminding them to maintain social distancing.

If a site runs out of kits, families will be sent to another school, Maffe said. She encouraged families to arrive early.

On Monday, district staff made last-minute preparations, stocking long rows of paper bags with cereal, fruit and other items.

The distribution is part of an ongoing effort by Maffe Department staff to ensure families do not go hungry during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’ve been doing this throughout the pandemic,” Maffe said. For example, during the summer, food service staff distributed more than 700,000 meals to families, she said.

Meriden Public Schools Superintendent Mark Benigni told the Record-Journal that families can expect to receive an assortment of meals including a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The cost is funded by a federal grant, Benigni said.

“We want to encourage people to go out. Meals are ready. They are ready,” Benigni said.

In addition to feeding families in the city during the pandemic, officials have also been scrambling to keep food service staff and support local food distribution vendors.

Maffe praised district staff, who she said have been “amazing” and “worked so hard” to make the ongoing food distributions happen. She noted that their work never slowed down, even during distance learning last spring or during summer vacation.

“My staff just worked so long and so hard,” Maffe said, adding that she appreciates the support from the city, school board and community. “We really feel that we have become an integral part of the school district and the community.

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Jeremy S. McLain