In the midst of all the confusion and fatigue created by the COVID-19 pandemic — with millions of students home from school for months on end, and millions of parents out of work, and a wide variety of retail businesses closed, and no clear idea of when things will get back to anything like normal — it is entirely appropriate that we spare a thought for some of those who have been quietly keeping things going for their fellow citizens, especially for those who are in particular need.
We think of the health-care workers, of course, who have been on the front lines all along; and the first responders — police, fire, ambulance; as well as the bus drivers and sanitation workers; and the grocery store and pharmacy staff who have kept us supplied with necessities. We are rightly grateful to all of them.
But another group that we might easily ignore are the food-service workers who have been distributing meals to students while the schools themselves have been closed.
For example, over the long Memorial Day weekend, Meriden Public Schools cafeterias distributed over 4,000 bags of food, about double what they pass out on a weekly basis. Each bag contained breakfast and lunch for four days.
Meriden isn’t alone. According to The Connecticut Mirror, since statewide school closures on March 16, more than 5.5 million meals had been served, as of May 21, to schoolchildren in 130 school districts. But in a city like Meriden, with a high level of eligibility for free or reduced-price meals, the need has been great.
Anyone in Meriden with a household member under the age of 18 is eligible for the food distribution program, which takes place Monday through Thursday, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at eight schools: John Barry, Hanover, Thomas Hooker, Casimir Pulaski, Israel Putnam, Lincoln Middle, Washington Middle, and Maloney High.
Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reimburses the district $6.38 for every bag of food it distributes. The food distribution program is set to end Aug. 30, but if the start of the 2020-21 school year is delayed because of the virus, the school system is prepared to keep going.
“I can’t say enough about the staff,” said Susan Maffe, director of food and nutrition services. “They were there on the front lines from Day One. They were scared and they didn’t want to be there, but now they can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
At a time when so many questions remain unanswered, we salute all the workers who are determined to keep things going — not without personal risk — for the greater good.