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Tens of Thousands of Meals Going to Kids, Families in COVID-19 Crisis

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

RCSD Superintendent Terry Dade, left, at a March 15, 2020 news conference about the district response to school closings. Provided by RCSD.

Day by day — hour by hour — officials trying to make sense of how to help the community get through the COVID-19 crisis receive get new information and revise their plans.

“This is uncharted,” Rochester School District Superintendent Terry Dade said March 18 at a news conference to explain how the district was promoting learning while schools were closed because of the novel coronavirus.

Dade said the first two days that school were closed were devoted to making sure children had access to food. With grab-and-go meals available at select rec centers and schools, attention could turn to keeping minds full.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Lovely Warren and Julia Tedesco, president and chief executive officer of Foodlink, held a virtual news conference to provide updates on food distribution.

Here are the highlights from each update.

Access to food for children and families

Since March 16, the city has distributed approximately 13,000 meals at the R-Centers and approximately another 10,000 at schools. The distribution will continue. Warren said the number of meals distributed were increasing daily as residents became aware of the sites.

Foodlink has prepared and distributed approximately 12,000 meals to children in Rochester, with another 8,000 ready by the end of the week. That’s in addition to the 23,000 from the school district.

The R-Centers are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Adams Street, 85 Adams St.; Ave D, 200 Ave. D;Carter Street, 500 Carter St.; Tyshaun Cauldwell, 524 Campbell St.; Frederick Douglass, 990 South Ave.; Flint Street, 271 Flint St.; David Gantt, 700 North St.; Trenton and Pamela Jackson (Clinton-Baden), 485 N. Clinton Ave.; Thomas Ryan, 530 Webster Ave.

The schools are open 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.: East Upper & Lower School, 1801 E. Main St.; Dr. Freddy Thomas Campus, 625 Scio St.; former Jefferson High School, 1 Edgerton Park.; James Monroe High School, 164 Alexander St.; John Williams School No. 5, 555 Plymouth Ave.; Wilson Foundation Academy, 200 Genesee St.; School 42, 3330 Lake Ave.

Warren said some of those meals were going to others in the household. With greater need, more sources have become available.

Action for a Better Community is opening sites at its Head Start locations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on Hart Street, Clifford Avenue, Jefferson Avenue and Hudson Avenue for the public to get a grab-and-go lunch.

The Maplewood YMCA will be providing grab-and-go meals from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, also open to the public. The site fills a gap in the northwest quadrant. Families need to bring bags to bring the food home.

Foodlink is working to get emergency food into the community through traditional and pop-up methods. At the end of the week, Foodlink will be working with Lifespan to help seniors in need. Foodlink is working with suburban and rural partners and is in the process of packing emergency food boxes.

Tedesco said Foodlink is ensuring the safety of workers and of the food, and has a plan to do food prep in the convention center, which will allow the workers to have more space.

Foodlink and the United Way put out a call for volunteers to help fill boxes, starting March 19 and running through March 24 at the convention center. Volunteers must be healthy, and social distancing will be in place. Volunteers must register at www.uwrochester.org/covidvolunteer, No walk-ins will be accepted.

Residents who have questions about where to get food can contact 211/Lifeline online at 211Lifeline.org or by text at 898211. The phone number is 211, but Tedesco said phone operators have been overwhelmed with requests and the other options may get a faster response.

Learning resources

The RCSD has set up several ways for students to keep up with their lessons: contact from classroom teachers; online access to activities posted by teachers; grade-level activities on the RCSD Learns website; and continued used of the online portal by high schools students with Chromebooks.

Dade said that teachers still are on the job, although virtually. He also said the assignments being posted are not mandatory, and there is no grading or other way to tell how many students are staying involved. He said that for those who lack internet, paper packets are being assembled and will distributed no later than Monday at the food sites.

Dade said students should not look at this as a break, and educators are concerned that the “summer slide,” when children have a tendency to slack off their learning, could take hold.

Dade said he is preparing one set of plans should schools reopen April 1, and another set if schools stayed closed into May. RCSD and districts across the state are awaiting guidance on what will happen with Regents and other standardized tests.

As for parents concerned about whether they are teaching their students correctly, Dade said there is no wrong way to engage a child in the love of reading or the exploration of math.

Parents with questions can call (585) 262-8700 or go to rcsdk12.org for information.