In ponchos and raincoats, local teachers and volunteers delivered food to the cars of Marion parents Wednesday to ensure that no child in their community goes hungry while schools are closed.
Beginning yesterday, Marion Community Schools (MCS) will do a weekly grab-and-go food pick-up at the Justice Intermediate School parking lot.
Amanda Bradford, the assistant principal of Riverview Elementary School, said all of the staff arrived at the school at 2 p.m. and began handing out food at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s an all-in effort to get our kids what we can during this time,” Bradford said. “We’re doing everything we can to support our kids and our families.”
For two days, MCS faculty and volunteers packaged 4,000 bags of food for Marion students. Community members, churches and organizations pitched in to help feed the students of Marion.
“I’ve just seen this time and time again, in a time of need, the people of the City of Marion and Grant County just step up,” said MCS Superintendent Brad Lindsay. “I’ve never lived in such a generous place.”
Each week, children will receive a week’s worth of food, including milk, fruit, veggies, juice, bread, cheese, lunch meat and more.
MCS does not require children to be present for the pick-up, nor do they require adults to show identification or proof of need.
“We just want to care for the community the best we can,” Lindsay said. “We want to operate in good faith that people are coming in need of food, but we only make 4,000 bags of one week of food.”
From preschool age to 12th-graders, MCS has roughly 3,900 students. Lindsay said they decided to round up to provide for any other families in need that come to the food distribution.
MCS is working with local food pantries and the Grant County Rescue Mission to ensure that no leftover food will go to waste.
“It’s quite a collaboration, and I think everyone in Grant County is chipping in,” Lindsay said. “It’s just a generous community, and we need everybody right now.”
Lindsay said MCS chose to hold the food distribution at Justice because of the size of the parking lot.
“We wanted to make it as safe as possible,” Lindsay said.
Without leaving their car, parents were given the bags of food carefully, to limit the amount of person-to-person contact.
“We know it may not go perfectly, but we will make adjustments going forward,” Lindsay said. “Right now, the health experts are telling us to stay home as much as possible, so we just want to be conscious of that.”
While schools remain closed for at least three weeks, the MCS school board voted to continue to pay the roughly 700 MCS employees their regular wages.
“Part of the panic can be the economic crisis,” Lindsay said. “We didn’t want any staff members to miss a paycheck.”
Although MCS currently plans to reopen on April 5, Lindsay said schools might continue to stay closed beyond that time.
“I really don’t see it ending anytime soon,” Lindsay said. “It’s likely that it will be extended beyond the three weeks.”
MCS plans to provide weekly meals as long as schools are cancelled.
If any families have trouble finding transportation to get to the food distributions, Lindsay recommends contacting the principals for further accommodations.
During the pandemic, schools will be reimbursed for the meals provided to students.
Lindsay said they budgeted based on what they would typically pay to serve all of their children for a week.