Coronavirus: How Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Schools Are Addressing Food Insecurity

School closures raise concerns about children who rely on free and reduced lunch. Here are resources/information available for those affected

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click to enlarge Coronavirus: How Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Schools Are Addressing Food Insecurity
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As school closures are announced nationwide, the effects of COVID-19 are becoming real for millions of students and their families, including those in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. 

Cincinnati Public Schools — which has about 36,000 students — announced on March 12 that it will cease in-person instruction beginning March 17 until April 3 per Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's orders to prohibit mass gatherings, aka 100 or more persons in a single space. The call to close down both public and private K-12 schools is an attempt to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a pandemic. Called social distancing, the idea is that through initiatives like school closures and limiting large public gatherings, the virus' spread will slow and, therefore, decrease the stress on our health care system. 

In a similar move, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on March 12 called for public schools statewide to close for two weeks starting Monday, March 16. Unlike DeWine's order, this was a "strong recommendation" — one many districts are heeding, including Kenton, Boone and Campbell county, along with Newport and Covington Independent Schools. (Here is a full list of school closings, per the Cincinnati Enquirer.) 

"The reason we are going to get through this is we are going to be aggressive about the steps we take," Beshear said. 

These closures raise concerns about children who rely on school for free and reduced lunch. According to Feeding America, nearly 40,000 children in Hamilton County live in a food-insecure household. That's one in five children who face uncertainties about where their next meal is coming from. Here are resources/information available to those affected:

  • CPS has stated that it will close schools starting March 17. The district is currently determining a way to ensure that students who use free and reduced-price lunch programs will continue to have access to meals. Information will be forwarded to parents Monday, March 16. “I know this situation is stressful,” Superintendent Laura Mitchell said in a statement. “We recognize that this closure is a hardship for many of our families and I wanted to provide them with sufficient notification to make any adjustments.” 
  • In a letter, Randy J. Poe — Boone County's superintendent — stated that cafeterias would remain open to students receiving free and reduced lunch, providing breakfast, lunch and take-out. "Non-traditional Instruction and event cancellations are being done out of an abundance of caution and to help stem the tide of the spread of the COVID-19 virus," the letter reads. "Your child’s health and safety are our first priority."
  • Kenton County Public Schools will provide "grab and go" breakfast and lunch meals at each school building beginning Monday, March 16 through Thursday, March 19 and Monday, March 23 through Friday, March 27. (Meals will not be served on March 20 due to that day being a scheduled calendar break.)
  • Campbell County Schools announced yesterday that they will close schools for two weeks beginning March 16, with a "strong possibility of a later addition of a third week," according to a letter from superintendent David A. Rust. No meal plan has been addressed yet, but more information is to come. 
  • Newport Independent Public Schools will continue to provide breakfast and lunch for students, along with grab and go meals, which can be picked up from 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday at each school. 
  • Covington Independent Public Schools will close March 16 through March 27 with plans to return March 30. In a letter from superintendent Alvin L. Garrison, the district stated free meals will be available for students under 19 years old at Covington Independent Public Schools on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to noon. 

Several food pantries in the area will also be open, including:

Call the United Way at 211 to locate food pantries in your particular zip code.

Update (3/14):

Cincinnati Public Schools has shared details on how students can receive meals during the school shutdown period.

Per the CPS website:

Cincinnati Public Schools Student Dining Service program will provide an opportunity for families to drive thru or walk up and pick up meals for the children in their family between the ages of 1 and 18 at a number of school sites. Per USDA regulations, children must be present in order for meals to be provided. Meal distribution sites will be set up outside in the parking lot or bus lane at each school.  If driving, please stay in your car and meals will be passed through to the driver based on the number of children in the car

Meals will be served Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from March 17 through April 3. Find complete info here.

Update 3/16

Though all 41 branches of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are closed until further notice, they will make free meals available to children ages 18 and under starting Tuesday, March 17. In partnership with UMC Food Ministry, "ready to eat meals" will be handed out Monday-Friday while school is out at the following times/locations: 

  • 12-1 p.m.: Elmwood Place, Groesbeck, Madisonville, North Central, Reading and Main library
  • 2-3 p.m.: Avondale, Bond Hill, College Hill, Pleasant Ridge, West End and Westwood
  • 4-5 p.m.: Corryvill, Covedale, Deer Park, St. Bernard and Walnut Hills

Visit our live blog for the latest COVID-19-related news, announcements, cancelations and other updates.

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