Wareham Public Schools distributes nearly 400,000 free meals during pandemic

Dec 17, 2020

In 2020, Wareham Public Schools has distributed close to 400,000 free meals to children under the age of 18 in Wareham.

The free meal distribution program was launched by the school district in response to the covid-19 crisis and is available to any child in Wareham, not only Wareham Public Schools students.

Michael Russo, the school district’s food service department director, reported that the schools had distributed a total of 396,224 free meals between the start of the operation on March 16 and Dec. 4.

“That number is staggering to me,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Andrea Schwamb said during the Dec. 17 school committee meeting.

“There’s definitely a need,” Russo said in response.

Russo noted that the program has been intensely collaborative from the start. 

“In order to do this, it has taken a lot of effort and a lot of contribution from our staff, both in production and distribution,” he said. “We’ve teamed up with other departments. The transportation department, administrators, custodians — you name it. Everyone’s been supporting us and part of the effort.” 

He thanked everyone and said the success of the program wouldn’t have been possible without everyone chipping in. 

The school district operates five sites for food distribution Monday through Friday. Meals are distributed at the front entrance to the Wareham Middle School from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. At the Decas School cafeteria entrance, the Shangri La playground, the Woods at Wareham apartment complex and the Onset Bandshell, meals are available from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Meal distribution will be closed for winter break from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3, and will resume on Monday, Jan. 4.

Meals are also provided to students who participate in the hybrid schooling model when they’re dismissed from in-person classes.

Russo said the department had applied to more grants to help cover the cost of the free meal distribution program and he expects more grant money to come through.