school kids

Free lunches will be provided for Alachua County children and young adults ages 18 and younger during their spring break this week until Friday. 

During the break, grab-and-go meals will be passed out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until they run out, across eight locations in Gainesville, according to the Alachua County Public Schools website

Although the school district was unable to give out free lunches because it wouldn’t be fully reimbursed by the federal government, volunteers and local businesses such as CAMPUS USA Credit Union, Mi Apá Latin Café and Gator’s Dockside stepped in to provide them, despite the struggle local businesses are facing from COVID-19.

The Alachua County community members will offer about 1,400 lunches each day at sites such as Buchholz High School, Cone Park Branch Library, Greater Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Library Partnership, Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Springhill Church, SWAG Center and Upper Room Ministries.

Outside of Gainesville, there are 10 additional pickup locations, such as Irby Elementary in Alachua, Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in High Springs and Willie Mae Stokes Community Center in Micanopy.

On Facebook, the school district announced that starting next Monday, more locations would be added and they would provide free breakfast and lunch for children.

The free meals are much needed for Alachua County, as almost 20 percent of county residents live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All but six schools in the county are part of the Community Eligibility Provision, which provided free breakfast and lunch to all students when school was in session based on the proportion of low-income families. About 54 percent of the county’s students receive free or reduced lunch in the 2017-2018 school year, according to the 2020 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program.

Once spring break is over, the public school district plans to provide students with online and alternative assignments to continue instruction.

Contact Samantha Chery at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SammyChery4276.