Sandwiches are prepped for distribution to students of Trenton Catholic Academy. Courtesy photo
Sandwiches are prepped for distribution to students of Trenton Catholic Academy. Courtesy photo
While Catholic schools in the Diocese are attending to students’ learning through virtual platforms, teachers and staff are also continuing to make sure another need is met, too: food.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Asbury Park, and Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, have been providing breakfast and lunch to children in their communities who are food insecure during building closure orders due to coronavirus concerns.

“It took us all morning to do the deliveries with two church vans, but it was great to get the job done,” Theresa Craig, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School principal, said after meal drop-offs March 25. She was accompanied on the trip by Mother of Mercy Parish pastor Divine Word Father Miguel Virella.

School staff, including cook Wanda Hart and cafeteria manager Loretta Gluckstein, were prepared with meals the first week of the mandatory school closures. “Over 90 percent of our students receive free or reduced lunch, so we knew we would have an issue with kids who were food insure,” Craig said.

Trenton Catholic Academy was at the ready, too.

“Almost 65 percent of our students receive free and reduced lunch, so we wanted to be sure the food they received for breakfast and lunch at school would be available to them while they are home,” said Mike Knowles, TCA president.

Both schools emphasized the breadth of the meals.

In Asbury Park, the breakfasts and lunches are for any child younger than 18 who is in the household.

At TCA, any students – not just those eligible for free and reduced lunches – are able to receive the food. Parents pick up food for the week on Mondays, which includes a breakfast bag with cereal, yogurt and fruit. Lunch is also provided for the week and consists of sandwiches, juices, fruit and snacks. The school also plans to introduce hot lunches.

All social distancing protocols and rules are being followed at all times, Knowles stressed. 

Craig explained that teachers and staff are continuing to evaluate the best way to reach their communities. For now, they continue to build a spreadsheet of families requesting food deliveries and encourage parents to contact teachers. Serving a diverse community that includes Chinese, Haitian and Hispanic families, staff use the online app ClassDojo to help with translation.

She went on to stress that many parents in the Asbury Park area are temporarily out of work with the statewide stay-at-home orders.

“I can’t help them pay their rent, but I can certainly make sure they have more money for their rent and tuition if we help feed their kids,” Craig said.