POCOMOKE – Students in the south end of the county will have access to free meals at Pocomoke Middle School during winter break.
The school system will offer nutritious meals Dec. 23, 26, 27, 30 and Jan. 2 and 3 at Pocomoke Middle School. The meals, which will be available between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., are available to any Pocomoke area students in need.
Superintendent Lou Taylor told the school board the service was critical in a county with 42% of its students coming from households of poverty.
“My staff and this board knows that every Christmas, I’m as excited as anybody to go home and take a break but I worry about it, they worry about it, because I know we’re going to be out 16 days and some of our kids will not get a nutritious meal,” he said.
The meal program is being funded by a contribution from Worcester County. The Worcester County Commissioners approved the funding earlier this month as they also agreed to provide funding for summer meals in 2020.
“As we talk about ensuring our students’ wellbeing over the upcoming winter break I have to again express my gratitude to our county commissioners for $10,000 in funds for a pilot feeding program in Pocomoke during this winter break,” Taylor said.
At the meals on Dec. 23, 27 and 30, students will also be able to request a backpack of food to take home with them thanks to the school system’s partnership with the Maryland Food Bank.
“That’s going to be huge,” said Matthew Record, principal of Pocomoke Middle School. “We’ve got six days where we can guarantee kids get a hot meal. With these bags we can extend that food option beyond the hours we’re open.”
He said Pocomoke area schools had the highest percentage of students that lived in poverty and that the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced meals program had increased each of the last four years.
“That creates a really strong need,” he said. “Combine that with the fact that we’ve got a very long break the way the calendar falls.”
He said that while the meals were being served at Pocomoke Middle, they were available to Pocomoke students of any age. He said the program wouldn’t have been possible without the collaborative efforts of Pocomoke Middle, Pocomoke Elementary and Pocomoke High School.
Record said he was grateful that the commissioners had acted quickly to address concerns that children would be left hungry while schools were closed.
“Determining the need and taking immediate action is just good government,” he said. “We’re fortunate the commissioners allocated the funding.”