Free meals offered during school closures due to COVID-2019

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 17, 2020

With schools closed, local institutions and organizations are assisting families by offering free meals.

The Picayune School District is offering free meals for people 18 and under as long as schools are closed, said Superintendent Dean Shaw. Grab and go lunches are available at four sites: Roseland Park Elementary, Picayune Junior High, South Side Elementary and Nicholson Elementary. The meals are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The bags include two meals: lunch and breakfast for the next day.

Meals can be picked up at the front entrances for Nicholson Elementary and South Side Elementary and at the back cafeteria entrances for Roseland Park Elementary and Picayune Junior High. Parents can pull up to the entrance and be handed a meal through their vehicle window from a cafeteria worker. Children must be present in the car to receive the free meals.

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Anyone 18 years or younger can get a free meal, whether or not they are a student in the Picayune School District. The School District is not preparing a set number of meals, but will not let any children go without a meal, said Shaw. People older than 18 can purchase a meal for $3.50, said Shaw.

It does not matter if children attend Picayune schools or even if they are from Picayune, Poplarville or Carriere, said Assistant Food Service Director Faye Robbins. Other than children being present in the car, there are no requirements to receive the free meals.
Since the meals are part of a child nutrition program, children must be present so that school officials will have a head count for every bag they give out, said Robbins.

Tuesday over 50 sack lunches were passed out at South Side Elementary School in the first 15 minutes, said Shaw. At the Junior High, cafeteria workers gave out 60 meals and made 26 more before noon, said Robbins.

Four cafeteria workers are manning each site, along with a school resource officer. The workers arrive at 8 a.m. to prepare food and stay until 1:30 p.m., half an hour after meals are handed out.

Parents have been really happy to receive the food, said resource officer Ethan Martin. The schools have had more families participate than expected, said Robbins.

YUNEity is also offering free grab and go sack lunches at JP Johnson Park, located at 415 Rosa St., on Wednesday from 12 p.m. until all of the food is given away. There are no requirements to receive a free meal from YUNEity.

The group wanted to offer some relief to families who are trying to figure out how to feed kids when there is no school, said YUNEity CEO Jasmine McCullough.