CENTREVILLE — When food donations started rolling in for Lauren Huffman to place in meals for students on an extended break due to the coronavirus, little did she know it would inspire a community.
The initiative aims at delivering breakfast and lunch meals to students in neighborhoods in need while the school year is on hiatus to deal with the pandemic. While the school system is offering meals, students must have a way to pick them up in the middle of the day — something that simply isn’t feasible for a lot of parents.
“When you only have three schools in the county open to get breakfast and lunch between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., that’s a problem if parents are at work,” Huffman said. “Many parents rely on public school transportation to get their kids to school to get their meals. While we help low-income communities, any family from anywhere may be in need.”
While the school system has added additional commmunity-based pick-up sites, they are only open from noon to 1 p.m.
Huffman’s group of volunteers picks up donations, sorts and bags meals and delivers them to neighborhoods each evening — after they’ve finished their day jobs.
What started in earnest on Friday, March 13, has now grown to preparing 425 meals delivered to specific neighborhoods to a point of contact to have meals ready by the morning.
Among the most needed items are pre-packaged main dishes, such as Chef Boyardee meals, Hormel meals, and chicken or tuna salad with crackers. Other needs include healthy options for lunches like fruit.
Cookies, gummies, raisins, granola bars, Nutragrain bars, and Pop Tarts are good too. The smaller water bottles are easier to pack — or juice boxes and Capris Suns.
“I knew the need was there because there are kids that need these meals. Sometimes, these are the only meals they get and its important that they get them even in cases where their parents are unable to pick them up,” Huffman said.
Much of the work to coordinate the effort started with reaching out to the friends and coworkers who knew families in need and who were willing to help.
Billy and Brittany Michelle Gordon, owners of Mamma Mia Italian Bistro and Bar in Centreville, and Justin Davis have been instrumental in the effort. Momma Mia and The Pour House in Chester have both served as drop off points for donations.
The Jetty Restaurant and Dock Bar, Best Western and Rams Head Shore House also have been regular contributors.
“We do this because we’re just trying to do our part for the community,” Davis said. “We saw so many donations come in and it tells me that we’re able to fill that need. I’ve done many of these over the years and each time, the community really bands together.”
The plan is to continue the work until schools are reopened and students return to regularly served meals.
“It’s gratifying that we can help this many people, but I have an amazing group of people behind me. It’s amazing that the donations keep coming and I want the community to see their impact on people in need,” Huffman said.
Those wanting to reach Huffman to identify potential neighborhoods in need or to make donations can reach her by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.