An aerial view of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District campus in Great Barrington

Schools support families with proper nutrition during unexpected closures

School districts are working with a cohort of community partners to address the growing need for support of families with young children during this unexpected break from school.

Great Barrington — The welfare of our community’s youngest citizens snapped into sharp focus on Friday when schools across the county closed for a period that now extends through Monday, April 6. Within 24 hours of Gov. Baker’s announcement Sunday evening, one that affects all public and private schools throughout the Commonwealth, South County community partners met to address heightened food insecurity concerns amid the current COVID-19 outbreak in the region. Beginning Tuesday, March 17, a trio of South County schools will make to-go meals consisting of lunches and next-day breakfasts available to families with school-aged children, regardless of whether or not they were receiving free or reduced lunch. Meals will be picked up drive-thru style to minimize exposure to one another during this time of suggested social distancing.

Meals for families in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District will be available at the following sites from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Monument Valley Regional Middle School (in main loop); Great Barrington Fire Station (in back parking area); Housie Dome (front entrance); Stockbridge Town Hall (back entrance); West Stockbridge Town Hall (front entrance). Please email meals@bhrsd.org to communicate how many meals you need.

Southern Berkshire Regional School District Superintendent Beth Regulbuto. Photo courtesy Southern Berkshire Regional School District

Superintendent Beth Regulbuto informed families on Monday evening that the Southern Berkshire Regional School District meal program will provide an opportunity for families with school-aged children 18 and younger to obtain breakfast and lunch at no cost while school is closed. Meals will be available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Undermountain Elementary School entrance starting Tuesday, March 17. Each child will receive one lunch and one breakfast for the next day. All meals will meet or exceed USDA nutritional requirements. For the safety of staff, families are asked to please observe the one-way traffic pattern.  Please contact Jeremy Wells, director of food services, at meals@sbrsd.org or (413) 248-0727 to communicate how many meals are needed in order to be adequately prepared to meet the demand. Please inform the director of your need for delivery when you call or email.

Tom Nadolny of the Farmington River Regional School District. Photo courtesy Farmington River Regional School District

Tom Nadolny of the Farmington River Regional School District in Otis reached out to families on Sunday to acknowledge that many families may be challenged to provide nutritious meals and snacks for their children during this unexpected time away from school. Nadolny announced: “With the support of the administration, and help from the kitchen, support staff and teachers, Farmington River will be putting together a food care package that will consist of items that can help with breakfast, lunch and snacks. If you would like a food package, please let Terri know, either by responding by email to: tdigrigoli@frrsd.org or by phone (413) 269-4466 ext. 212. On Tuesday, March 17, you will have the option to pick up the care package from Terri outside of the school between 9 and 10 a.m. or it will be delivered in a box and left outside your home.”

Berkshire Hills Regional School District Superintendent Peter Dillon. Photo: Heather Bellow

School districts are working with a cohort of community partners to address the growing need for support of families with young children during this unexpected break from school. “About 50% of our students are eligible for free-reduced lunch,” said BHRSD Superintendent Peter Dillon in a written statement Monday. “We needed to try to fill that gap with school being closed,” he added. Dillon cited food service staff, especially Kathy Sullivan and Jodi Hall, and business administrator Sharon Harrison as key in working with others in the community, including Jenny Schwartz of Project Backpack, to come up with the current plan; community volunteers and parents have stepped up, too. “It’s great to see the community come together to support itself,” said Dillon.