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Schools and programs prepared to provide food relief if COVID case uptick causes schools to go remote

The Waterbury school district and the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford both have plans to tackle food insecurity if remote learning makes a return.

HARTFORD, Conn. — School districts and after-school programs in Connecticut are making sure kids won't go hungry if schools have to resort back to remote learning this winter.

At the height of the pandemic, Darren Schwartz, Interim Deputy Superintendent of Waterbury Schools, said many Waterbury students and families faced significant challenges. 

"We know food insecurity is a real issue here for many of our families," explained Schwartz. "Waterbury, city-wide, it's about 19-20% of food-insecure households."

Schwartz said students learn best when their basic needs are met, and food is a big part of that, which is why the school district opened food pick-up sites, passing out bagged breakfast and lunches for students and families when the school went remote at the height of the pandemic.

RELATED: 620,000 COVID-19 test kits sent to schools as state officials double down on in-person learning

"We want to make sure that students are not receiving just any food but nutritious food that meets daily allotments," explained Schwartz. "And so, as part of our school system mission is to make sure students are healthy and safe."

Schwartz said if schools were to return to remote learning because of the uptick in COVID-19 cases, they'll be prepared to keep students fed. 

"We have a game plan, we have a plan B and a plan C," stressed Schwartz. "We learned from the first time around that we have to be flexible if not anything else." 

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Schwartz said they'll quickly reopen food distribution sites for families and students if schools were to go remote. In addition, He said the district would implement its bag lunch and bag breakfast routine, giving students meals before they left school if the district returned to a hybrid learning format.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Hartford are also ready with a game plan. Samuel Gray, president & CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hartford, said there aren't many grocery stores when you look around Hartford. This is why he stressed that partnerships and teamwork are vital to continue with nutrition education and food relief efforts that'll help kids. 

"It's our responsibility to not only to be educated but also to make sure that no child is hungry or lack substance to help them be productive or even responsible in our in our community," said Gray.

RELATED: Several Connecticut school districts delay, cancel classes amid staffing shortage

Gray said while the pandemic has been scary and challenging for students and their families, BGC of Hartford has an ongoing mission to ensure kids do not go without. 

"Now more than ever, our kids, our families, those who need us the most need a Boys and Girls Club, and we will be there, our doors will stay open," Stressed Gray. "And we'll do it safely and responsibly," 

While the pandemic has been scary and challenging for students and their families, Gray said the club's kids and their families are top priority, no matter if it's food or needed resources.  

"If something should change, with remote learning, we'll do remote learning inside of the Boys and Girls Club to help those families, those parents, those guardians, that half to continue to work, and young people need a safe place to continue with their educational pursuits.

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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