With the coronavirus spreading across America, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that people take precautions to limit their exposure. This has meant changing meetings, cancelling public events, and rethinking how we offer classes in our schools. It has also meant changes in the way we manage our meals programs.
Although regular classes are not in session, the Alliance Public Schools is providing Grab & Go sack lunches for all kids age 18 and under. Parents are asked to drive to Alliance Middle School 11:30-12:30 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and pull into the driveway on the east side of the building from 12th Street, exiting onto Box Butte. Meals will be handed out at the AMS gym doors, and people are asked that they not get out of their vehicles. They will be given a sack lunch containing a hot meal for each child in the vehicle. Monday and Wednesday’s hot lunches will include a cold lunch to be eaten the next day. Dr. Troy Unzicker, Superintendent, says that this program will continue as long as the school remains closed due to COVID-19, through the month of June if necessary.
Hemingford Public School is providing breakfast and lunch to students who qualify for free/reduced lunch. Students may come to the school to pick up their meals daily, and a vehicle takes lunches to Berea for the convenience of families who live in that area. The Board of Education and Administration will re-evaluate their meal delivery program if school closures continue due to COVID-19.
The Backpack Program is suspending its normal operations until school is back in session. Instead, the program’s volunteers and resources are being used to pack sack lunches, helping to provide meals to meet the increased demand at the Community Table.
Community Table is maintaining its regular hours at the Masonic Center, 3rd and Laramie. Free meals continue to be prepared by volunteers, following updated guidelines to ensure safe handling. Because of the CDC’s request for social distancing, sit down meals are not served in the center. Here’s our latest developments: At the present time, most meals are being delivered (Contact Whittney Baldwin if we don’t have your address for delivery – 308-455-9175.) At the same time, meals are also served grab and go drive through for those who are not having it delivered. Finally, a survey will be distributed this week along with the meals...to provide us better communication and safe and workable process. Demand was way up last week, with more than 140 people receiving meals on Thursday.
Whitney Baldwin and a group of friends are preparing and handing out a Breakfast-to-go bag which contains a breakfast burrito, juice, and a pastry. These are available from the Cardio Connection, purple door on 5th Street, 7:30-8:30 am daily.
Northwest Community Action Partnership manages both the Alliance Food Pantry and the Head Start program. Head Start families receive a bag of food for the preschool child, with food equivalents that would be received if the child were in school each day, Monday through Thursday. The bag includes activities for the child as long as classes are not being held, and NCAP staff is calling each family daily to answer questions and provide resources. Each family will also be getting a bag of food weekly from the local Food Pantry.
The Food Pantry is up and running, but guests are no longer able to come in and select food. Instead, they are asked to fill out a form online, specifying what they would like, and their bag of food is taken to their vehicle. The Food Pantry is working with the Alliance Senior Center and RSVP program to deliver food to families as necessary. They are also working with the Food Bank of the Heartland in Omaha and Grocery Kart to purchase food to keep the Pantry’s shelves stocked. Northwest Community Action Partnership provides other assistance, https://www.ncap.info/programs-and-services/emergency-and-community-services/.
The Senior Center in Alliance continues to provide a hot noon meal for people age 60+ at the cost of $4.00. Since the Senior Center is closed, these meals are delivered daily to people who call and place an order, or are available as Grab & Go, with Senior Center staff bringing meals to the parking lot and placing them in the car. RSVP volunteers are continuing to deliver Meals on Wheels for Box Butte General Hospital.
Of course, the federal programs to assist those with food insecurity continue to exist. If a family’s situation changes, apply for these programs through the local office or online. Programs include SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, 411 Black Hills Avenue in Alliance, 308-763-2907. The WIC assistance program, Women, Infants, and Children, is available through Western Community Health Resources, 619 Box Butte Avenue in Alliance, 308-762-3696.
Because of the need, Community Table, Breakfast-to-go, and the Food Pantry could use as much help as possible. Please call Whitney Baldwin, 308-455-9175, for Community Table and Breakfast-to-go. Volunteers and donations are always welcome.
With the uncertainty facing us during the Coronavirus Pandemic, it is reassuring to know that these programs exist to ensure that residents of Box Butte County will not go hungry. If you need further assistance, please check out the United Way web site, https://www.unitedwayofwesternnebraska.com/covid-19-resources.