When Perry County School District 32 closed its doors Wednesday as part of the nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, many disadvantaged students were left without access to the daily nutrition provided by the district during normal school days.
In addition, closing the district schools cut off easy access to one of its longstanding programs, "BackPacks for Friday," which provides nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods, sent home in backpacks on Fridays to ensure children in need — and their families — have something to eat until they return to school for breakfast on Monday morning.
Now that PCSD has suspended classes, those students were faced with a bit of uncertainty. In an effort to continue aiding students and families, PCSD staff were faced with a challenge. How can they continue to help while honoring the "social distancing" recommendations of state and national health experts?
As it turned out, it wasn't that difficult — or unfamiliar.
“We have worked with the [Ladies of Charity] food pantry for years to help provide food for students during summer break and different situations,” Kate Martin said. “This is an abnormal break, but they stepped right up and will help with this as well.”
In anticipation of the closure, the district prepared packages of food for all families enrolled in the Backpacks for Friday program. Those packages were delivered on Tuesday.
Families enrolled in the program also received a voucher for fresh food that can be used at Rozier’s Food Centre. According to Martin, the district will reevaluate the situation next week to see if any additional supplies are needed.
For families not enrolled in the Backpacks for Friday program, the district is partnering with the Ladies of Charity Food Pantry in Perryville to provide food during the closure.
If families need food assistance during the COVID-19 crisis, they must first complete a application for the Ladies of Charity food pantry. They must upload an image of a driver’s license to enroll in the program.
After submitting the application, the families must arrive at the food pantry during business hours, and must bring with them a photo ID.
The pantry, located at 1021 W. St. Joseph St. in Perryville, is open from 7:30-11 a.m. Monday and from 4-6:30 p.m. Thursday. More information is available by calling 573-846-1100.
Donations of canned goods and other non-perishable items are also being accepted at St. Vincent de Paul Church, located at 1000 Rosati Court in Perryville. They may be dropped off in the "gathering space" near the main entrance.