Last Friday, March 13, after it was discovered that a newly diagnosed COVID-19 patient living in Port Ewen had family members attending two Kingston schools (who subsequently tested negative for the virus), Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced that all school districts in Ulster County would close for 14 days. A closure announcement from interim superintendent of schools Dr. Bernard Josefsberg was posted on the New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD) website that same day, noting that before- and afterschool care programs were also being suspended. The March 13 notice promised “further communications about the availability and distribution of bag lunches, as well as other aspects of District operations during this time frame.”
As of Monday, March 16, a new notice on the website announced that a home-delivery food distribution program for “families in need” with children under age 18 would get underway on Tuesday, March 17. The emergency program provides both breakfast and lunch, prepared at the New Paltz Middle School and delivered in one bag to your home by District employees between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily. They will be ready-to-eat meals that require no preparation. A link is provided for an online Food Home Delivery signup form at https://forms.gle/D9NKbqtKMaod9w3o8, and families can also sign up for the service by calling (845) 256-4020.
According to Bianca Tanis, a school board trustee who is acting as liaison between the Board of Education and Village/Town officials and community members working on the COVID-19 response, the emergency food delivery program is available to all families in the District with children under the age of 18, whether or not they are enrolled in public school or qualify for free lunch. However, the primary intent of the program is to prevent hunger in needy families. “Close to 500 students in the District qualify for free or reduced lunch and breakfast. Food insecurity is a reality for many of the families in our community. For some children, school is their only source of nutrition,” notes Tanis. “NPCSD will continue to provide breakfast and lunch for as long as our schools are closed.”
In addition to the official NPCSD emergency nutrition outreach program, a volunteer coalition of school administrators, Board of Education members, New Paltz United Teachers members, local elected officials, PTA leadership and local not-for-profits is conducting a separate food drive to support all families and community members in need of assistance within the District. Community volunteers will be distributing donated food to NPCSD families on Wednesday, March 18 at the Middle School between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon and 2 and 4 p.m. Food distribution will take place at the back door of the auditorium facing Lincoln Place.
Child-friendly, non-perishable, individually packaged food items can be donated between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the New Paltz Middle School front parking lot (facing Main Street). Suggested donations include fruit cups, applesauce, individual servings of cereal, instant oatmeal, toaster pastries, granola bars, raisins, dried fruit, peanut butter crackers, prepackaged pasta meals/macaroni and cheese, child-friendly canned or microwavable soup or pasta, shelf-stable milk and pudding cups, 100 percent juice boxes, individually packaged healthy snacks and graham crackers.
The Middle School PTA has also initiated a fundraiser for cash pledges on the Cheddar Up crowdfunding website at http://bit.ly/2vmH3kN. Your donations will go to support local families facing increased food insecurity due to the impact of COVID-19. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer to assist with these efforts, you can sign in by visiting the NPMS Facebook page. “As we get a better idea of what the community’s needs are, we will know more about what kind of support is needed from volunteers,” Tanis says. “There has been an incredible outpouring of community support and so far over 130 people have signed up to volunteer.”