By MADDY VITALE
Employees in the Ocean City School District have been working tirelessly with the help of their front line cafeteria workers to provide meals for the children in the district on free and reduced lunch since all state schools went virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of meals have been packaged up, providing students with free fruits, veggies, cereals, snacks, and entrees to take them through the week during this challenging time.
Parents and guardians pick up the meals at the high school during the week since school was closed due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions on March 17.
During a School Board meeting on April 30, the school board and Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor showed appreciation for the food service workers.
“Our deepest appreciation and thank you to food service workers,” Dr. Taylor said. “They are very, very, hard at work and they are our heroes. I want to thank them for all that they do and for their dedication. They really do care.”
Drew Fasy, chairman of OCNJ CARE, a non-profit organization charged with raising funds, identifying those in need, recruiting and organizing volunteers, and delivering the aid where it is needed, said recently the non-profit has offered its help to not only help with the food program for the students, but also their family members.
“My thought is that when we reinstated OCNJ CARE, one of the key groups we were concerned about and continue to be, are the kids,” Fasy said. “The school district has been just wonderful to work with as a partner. We see our role as helping to support the district. Their concern and love and care for the children has been so wonderful to see.”
So Fasy and other volunteers at OCNJ Care reached out to four local restaurants and to date, the non-profit purchased meal coupons to help the 385 children on the lunch program, their families and the area restaurants that have been closed except for takeout or delivery since the pandemic began in March.
“We have funded two different rounds for a total of 900 meal coupons at four participating restaurants,” he said. “The families pick up the coupons with their packages. “The kids love them, and the restaurants are happy to give back and help the kids. It is working out really well.”
Fasy said it has been a very positive experience seeing the outpouring of support from the community. “People are very generous. There are a lot of big hearted people in Ocean City.”