ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Thousands of students and parents opted to collect grab-n-go meals from Central Florida schools, according to Tuesday’s school district data.
Most Central Florida school districts launched their program’s Monday. On the first day of the food program, at least 88,573 students were handed food.
These numbers spanned across Central Florida school districts that organized pick up locations, practicing social distancing while supplying school lunches and breakfast to families who may rely on these daily meals.
These free meal programs are also meant to bring relief to families uncertain how the coronavirus will impact their upcoming paychecks if they are told to stay home -- possibly without pay.
Carolyn Walker has three grandchildren who attend Midway Elementary School in Sanford. She took advantage of the free meals for her grandchildren.
“They said breakfast and lunch, and I said 'breakfast and lunch? That’s great,” said Walker. “I’m on a fixed income and this helps out tremendously.”
She said the grab-n-go program means so much to her family during a time where avoiding large crowds and keeping one’s distance is so important.
“I said, 'oh I don’t have to go and give out hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, and it helps out tremendously because it keeps me out of the grocery store,” said Walker.
The meals are offered to any student 18 or younger, regardless if they previously qualified for the district’s free or reduced meal programs.
Chad Wilsky works for Seminole County Schools in the food services department. He said the district saw a larger number of kids show up than expected.
“I expected to serve 1,500 or 1,600 (meals), we ended up serving almost 4,200, but we were able to make that need,” said Wilsky. “We have teams set by to deliver more meals if they’re needed and to make more meals.”
Seminole County school leaders said they currently have seven grab-n-go locations at schools, and they’re adding at least one more location beginning Monday at Sanford Middle School.
Orange County school leaders told News 6 that kids at a few schools had to wait for a few minutes to get food Monday because the demand was so high, but no kids were turned away.
Below is a list of the number of meals handed out by county:
Orange County: 50,409 Meals
Seminole County: 4,142 Meals
Volusia County: 5,900 Meals
Brevard County: 15,600 Meals
Flagler County: 1,252 Meals
Lake County: 8,592 Meals
Sumter County: 740 Meals
Osceola County: 1,938 Students served
Marion County: Meal program to start Tuesday
Most meal programs are expected to run during the extended spring break time, which ends March 27, as schools transition to online distance learning.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the State Department of Education previously said students would not be returning to campus until at least April 15, advising districts to be prepared to extend the school year into the summer.