The Alachua County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services department and the City of Gainesville are offering free meals to the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
ACPS Food and Nutrition Services have been offering free meals to children in the county who are 18 years old and younger at sites throughout the county from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
On Mondays through Thursdays, the food and nutrition services team offers two meals per child for breakfast and lunch.
On Fridays, they offer six meals to each child, which are intended to serve as meals from Friday through Sunday.
“The food and nutrition staff have been making meals and the meals have been distributed on the buses,” said Maria Eunice, director of Food and Nutrition Services. “It’s been a great partnership.”
Since March 30, the food and nutrition services program has served more than 355,000 free meals to children.
Some of the foods they offer are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, cheese sticks and deli meat sandwiches.
The program is looking forward to provide ‘heat-at-home’ meals which will consist of pizza, burritos and grilled cheese sandwiches, Eunice said.
“Families are looking forward to the transition,” Eunice said. “We’re getting new things we weren’t able to procure a few weeks ago. We’re also looking forward to new breakfast items.”
The program also wants to help farmers during these times by negotiating with them “to bring in more fresh food as much as we can,” Eunice said.
Clay Ranch Berry Farm recently offered blueberries and Eunice said the Gainesville Police Department announces the locations of meal sites for buses on their PA systems in the neighborhoods.
“We’re so happy to be able to do this for the families and students,” Eunice said. “We hear that families are struggling so we’re happy that food and nutritional services can be able to be there for the community.”
Wanda Ellerbe made stopped by Duval Early Learning Academy on Friday to pick up meals and appreciated the work the staff is doing.
“I think it’s a really good idea that the schools continue to hand out food because there are so many kids who are hungry,” Ellerbe said. “Sometimes the school lunches are the only meals they get.”
Jarod Alston was one of the food and nutrition staff members who served meals to dozens of families who stopped by Duval Early Learning Academy’s parking lot Friday.
“I feel obligated to help,” Alston said. “I love coming out and helping everyone.”
To learn more about the meal sites, visit, www.yourchoicefresh.com.
The city of Gainesville and the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce launched a pilot program called FEED GNV on April 13.
The program is working with local restaurants to provide grab-and-go meals seven days a week for community members in need.
Free lunches and dinners are currently being served at GRACE Marketplace. The program will be evaluated by city leaders on a weekly basis, and officials will consider expanding the program.
“It gives businesses much-needed cash flow and it also helps our most vulnerable,” said Rossana Passaniti, the city’s public spokeswoman. “A lot of folks were affected by the shelter-in-place order and this is a way to help them.”
The program distributes 70 to 80 meals a day and the cost to prepare each meal is $6.50 to $9.
Subway, Sonny’s BBQ, Jimmy Johns, PDQ, Chunky’s Griil & Fry, Eastend Eatery and Piesano’s are the restaurants who participated in the first week of the pilot program, Passaniti said.
“The program has gotten off to a good start,” said Ian Fletcher, vice president of education and talent for the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce. “I really have a positive outlook on this program because it’s benefiting restaurants in real time.”
Fletcher said Deborah Bowie, a city of Gainesville assistant city manager, saw the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts launching the program in March and reached out to the chamber to do something similar here.
“I’m really happy that Deborah saw it and thought it was needed in the community to support our vulnerable population this way,” he said.
Fletcher said the program will soon work with 14 restaurants a week. Seven will prepare lunches and the other seven will prepare dinners.
He said the restaurants who do not provide delivery services will be preparing lunches for GRACE Marketplace to pick up while restaurants who offer delivery services will deliver dinners to GRACE Marketplace.
To prepare meals for FEED GNV, email Mary Foster at email@example.com or Roberta Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org