Just because COVID-19 has forced area students out of school for an extended period of time doesn’t mean they have to go hungry.

School districts such as Nacogdoches and Central Heights are offering students an opportunity for free curbside, grab-and-go lunches. NISD officials announced they have extended the districtwide cancellation until at least March 27, and, as of now, Central Heights has extended its spring break until March 23.

Both plan on serving meals until school eventually starts.

NISD has four locations to pick up meals — Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary, Fredonia Elementary, Emeline Carpenter Elementary and the NISD Central Kitchen on Hughes Street behind Thomas J. Rusk Elementary. The meal contains lunch and breakfast for the next day.

Central Heights is serving meals at the north end of the elementary campus from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., also with lunch and breakfast for the next day.

“We’re trying to fill in the needs for the students. There are so many students out there, that maybe some of them don’t have enough to eat or even nothing to eat,” said Sonia Servin, NISD employee and leader of the Brook-Quinn-Jones location. “We’re trying to feed our kids, that’s what we’re here for.”

Nacogdoches ISD qualifies as a Community Eligibility Provision under the National School Lunch program, meaning that the district has a high population of children in need of meals, said Robin Thacker, Director of Student Nutrition.

The meals are open to all community students that meet the 18 and under guideline, and have to be present in the car at the time of pick-up.

NISD began serving meals on Monday, reaching about 300 people combined at all four locations. The Brooks-Quinn-Jones location reached 53 people on the first day, and around 50 people within the first 30 minutes of the second day.

“What we’re seeing is parents are realizing how long they may be quarantined to their house that we’re going to see an increase, and we’re here for that reason,” Thacker said.

Central Heights ISD is offering meals for those who qualify for the free and reduced lunch. Those who qualify filled out the appropriate forms at the beginning of the school year. Starting the initiative Monday, they served 33 people within the first hour, and expect the numbers to grow as word gets out.

The district has informed the community using social media, the school website and Remind 101.

“We want to make sure that we offer our kids who may not have access to breakfast and lunch an opportunity to pick up meals on days that the schools will be closed for the emergency closure,” said Central Heights Superintendent David Russell. “We hope that people help spread the word, so we can make sure that everyone needs (a meal) will have a chance to come by.”

Servin, who has worked in the Brooks-Quinn-Jones kitchen since 2003, has learned that serving a friendly smile can be just as important as serving a hot meal to students, and intends on doing the same when students pick up meals during uncertain times.

“We always try to have a smiling face, and to give (the students) love when they come, and feed them and nurture them,” Servin said. “I do it because I love what I do and I love the kids.”

Etoile ISD is also offering free meals to anyone 18 or under, and offering a charged meal to adults — $2 for breakfast and $4 for lunch. The district is serving the meals at the morning drop-off area from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. for breakfast, and 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for lunch.

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