Pottsgrove Meals Program Ends; Summer Fate Unknown

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – The last meal packages of the 2019-2020 academic year were handed out Monday morning (June 8, 2020) at Lower Pottsgrove and West Pottsgrove elementary schools, as the Pottsgrove School District said it ended its distribution of foods purchased and prepared with government funding for families and students age 18 and younger in need of nourishment.

In public and on social media district residents and officials alike have consistently praised the 13-week effort, which began in mid-March, as a valuable humanitarian gesture that helped those rocked by the coronavirus pandemic.

A significant percentage of Pottsgrove students are economically disadvantaged. Additionally, a large number of families who usually don’t fit that category found themselves without wage-earners and incomes as employers and schools alike shut down to stop the spread of the virus. That prompted Pottsgrove and other districts to create “grab-and-go” centers where parents could pick up meals their children would have otherwise eaten in cafeterias.

Whether a similar program will be available for summer vacation months is an unanswered question. District Superintendent Dr. William Shirk, during the school board’s May 26 meeting, indicated Pottsgrove faced “several obstacles” in attempting a June-through-August food distribution schedule. “We’re not sure we can continue,” he said candidly.

It may again be a topic when the Board of School Directors meets virtually Tuesday (June 9) at 7:30 p.m. on Zoom. That meeting also is expected to feature a final approval vote by board members on the 2020-2021 district budget, which so far carries no tax increase. Its agenda is available for download here.

Overall, according to district figures, Pottsgrove freely gave away a total of 98,328 breakfasts and lunches, accompanied by condiments, milk and juices, and occasional snacks. Prepared by district employees and supervised by Chartwells K-12, its corporate food services provider, parents reported their kids thought the food was healthy and tasty.

Shirk, in a letter released Sunday, singled Chartwells, those workers, and distribution volunteers, and others for commendation.

“The Chartwells team (has) gone above and beyond the call of duty” in serving the Pottsgrove community, he said. “I would also like to thank the members of our school board and our administrative team, who volunteered their time each week to ensure our students were well-nourished and fed. We also want to thank the many families who supported our volunteers each and every week with notes and signs of gratitude. Those gestures continue to strengthen the relationship within our school community.”

The two school pick-up points also gave families, their students and their teachers time together, even if fleeting. Groups of educators arrived at both sites on some distribution days, holding signs proclaiming “We Miss You!” and other sentiments as a parade of cars slowly passed by. Kids waved in response, and brought their own signs as well. Those opportunities to “stay connected” were cherished by both parents and children, district Community Relations Director Gary DeRenzo noted.

Photo by Julie Anne Workman via Wikimedia, used under a Creative Commons license