With nearly 2000 students in the East Hampton School District and with approximately 50 percent of them depending on assisted meal programs, there wasn’t much time to put together a plan to provide meals to students when the schools were ordered to close. And those numbers grew quickly and significantly, as all involved realized they would need to extend their plans to accommodate all those under the age of 18 who showed up — with no ID or proof of district residency required.
Robert Tymann, the district superintendent, reported within a day of the closure a plan of action was formulated involving teachers, social workers, clerical staff, aides, and parents. That plan, he said, “is a day-by-day evolving work in progress.”
“And with the rate of unemployment skyrocketing due to the COVID-19 crisis, the number of those who depend on us can only go higher,” he said. “Our overall distribution has increased daily as we coordinate with different groups in the community. Our social workers have been involved from the beginning. They pointed out areas of need that we then accommodated. We made drops at some of the apartment complexes, then a distribution point was organized at the trailer park, from 9:30 to 10:30 AM daily.”
Tymann said this past Wednesday the district dropped 40 lunches and breakfasts at the Springs Food Pantry.
“They serve approximately 125 children, 18 and under, with weekly meals every Wednesday,” he said. “We hope to begin providing them with a significant number of meals beginning this Wednesday.”
“Our community is always generous with their time and support for important causes,” Tymann continued. “Right now, we have a group of rotating volunteers. We try to make sure no one is overextending themselves but everyone participates. There are a lot of endorphins released doing this type of work. We’re spreading out the burden and the reward. There are also a number of volunteers waiting to help. I am sure, as this process progresses, we’ll need everyone.”
The district is also working on creating a hotline for those unable to get to any of the distribution points. Tymann said once it’s in place, the district will use school buses to deliver meals. He said he hopes to be forthcoming with details in the coming week.
“Doing our best to make sure the volunteers and community are protected is one of the biggest challenges,” he said. “The last thing we want is to inadvertently spread the virus. Towards that end, we have created protocols to minimize person-to-person contact. All volunteers wear gloves, masks, and goggles when distributing meals, which are handed out using a plastic tray to minimize contact.”
Meals will be distributed at the East Hampton High School on Long Lane using a “grab-and-go” process. Cars will enter the bus loop from Long Lane —signs will be posted — and proceed to the administration entrance curbside distribution station. You will not need to leave your car; a volunteer will come to you.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided to anyone 18 and younger. The distribution schedule, Monday through Friday is as follows: Last name beginning with A through M — Meal Distribution from 9 to 10 AM. Last name beginning with N through Z — Meal Distribution from 10 to 11 AM.