WESTFIELD – After opening two locations for student lunch pickups during the COVID-19 outbreak for students in need, the Westfield School District added two more locations last week.
Superintendent of Schools Stefan Czaporowski said that the Abner Gibbs and Franklin Ave Schools, the original locations, are from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the two new locations, Powdermill Village and Colonial Pine Acres Apartments are from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
He explained that the district picked the two new locations because of the amount of students that live there. “We realized we have a lot of students in those two particular areas and transportation for them to Abner Gibbs or Franklin Ave was an obstacle.”
He said the district only started with the Abner Gibbs and Franklin Ave Schools because of the amount of students on free and reduced lunches at those schools. “They have a population of free and reduced lunch students at 50 percent or more. Then the USDA and Department of Education expanded it so we could offer meals unlimited.”
Czaporowski explained that the students are getting a good amount of food for free in each of their meals including a sandwich, fresh vegetables and apples for lunch. Along with the lunch, the students also get breakfast for the next day. “We’re also giving them a breakfast for the next morning. There’s cinnamon buns, cereals, milk yogurt, fresh fruits and juice so they’re getting a good amount of food,” he said.
While a smaller number of students were picking meals up during the first five days of the program, Czaporowski said that number has gone up dramatically. He said, “We went from doing 100 meals the first few days, now we’re averaging about 700 a day. It really depends on the weather, yesterday was 690 and today is going to be a nice day so we’re expecting about 750 today.”
Rachel Kania, the food services director with the Westfield Public Schools, has been one of the driving forces behind the program. “I really need to shout her out for this, she has done amazing work with this, and it’s really important to her,” Czaporowski said.
He explained that families have been appreciative of the work the schools are doing during this pandemic. “As wonderful as this program is, considering our circumstances I think we all wish we could do more, but at least we can do this. I’ve received feedback that our families really do appreciate it, we’re going to do everything we can to help.”
Czaporowski added that the schools are doing the best to keep students fed during this time of crisis, even with the schools closed. He said, “I want folks to know we’re not turning students away. If they come hungry, we will feed them.”