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Closures affect availability of prepared meals — BSD offering free ‘grab-and-go’ lunches after March 23

School districts for both Brookhaven and Lincoln Counties have shut their doors for an additional week following spring break, which leaves a large percentage of students without access to breakfast and lunch.

With 74 percent of students in Brookhaven and 57 percent of students in Lincoln County eligible for free and reduced lunches, many families depend on the meals schools provide for children.

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Ray Carlock said the district is planning to utilize a “grab and go” lunch program if schools are out for an extended period.

“If we are not back in school by next Monday, March 23, BSD will open our summer feeding sites to serve the community children 18 years and younger. This is contingent upon (Mississippi Department of Education) approval and food shipments arriving at the feeding sites in time for March 23,” he said.

The lunches with a snack will be available to be picked up through a drive-thru at Lipsey School and Mullins school from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each weekday starting March 23 if schools are still out. Children must be present in the vehicle to receive a lunch. Children do not have to be a student of the Brookhaven School District. Children do not have to qualify for free/reduced meals during the regular school year. This program is contingent upon approval by the Mississippi Department of Education and food shipments arriving at the feeding sites in time and will be extended to additional weeks as needed, he said.

With schools out an additional week — and potentially longer — local pantries and service organizations are looking to see how they can adapt to the coming need.

Blessings in a Backpack organizer Betty Ann Williams said that the organization has not met to discuss their response to COVID-19, and the group typically only operates when school is in session.

“School has to be in session for us to work,” Williams said. “Plus, it (involves) a lot of group work, and our supply is not what it normally is because we’re not able to get what we need right now.”

“With schools out, there’s a bigger need for food because (parents are) feeding their children,” Greater Hope Foundation Director Flora Kelly said. “Normally, they would be fed at school.”

Kelly said they already had an increased number of people arriving to pick up food in anticipation of Spring Break — but nobody could know for sure whether schools would close.

“If there’s something we can do, if there is a further need, if they’re out more than this week, we’ll probably come up with something that will aid that,” Kelly said.

Kelly said that, for now, nothing has changed for Greater Hope, and she believes that the pantry is equipped to handle an increase in demand for food.

“God has blessed us,” Kelly said. “We just purchased a large amount of food. We’re kind of good right now with what we have in our pantries. We’ll come up with something to meed the need — because we realize the need is out there.”

Greater Hope Foundation is run through New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, and the pantry is a plain white building located across from the volunteer fire department on New Sight Drive. Food is distributed on the second and last Thursday of every month.

To volunteer to stock shelves and distribute food or to receive assistance, call Kelly at 601-757-7299.