In light of Schuyler Community Schools closing last week due to growing concerns over COVID-19 spreading throughout Nebraska, local entities are stepping up to help make sure people of all ages don’t go hungry.
Colfax County Attorney Denise Kracl said that the Schuyler Food and Toy Drive has teamed up with the Colfax County Food Pantry and St. John’s Lutheran Church to pool their resources toward providing people with food and supplies during the time that schools will be closed. Kracl, lead organizer of the annual drive, and her team have been purchasing items at local stores while trying their best to leave enough for others who might be social distancing right now.
“Between Pastor Sarah (Gengler) and myself, we’ve made 15-20 trips,” Kracl said. “The thing is, we’re not trying to clean off anybody’s shelves. We believe that it is important that we take whatever portion is available, but not take everything.”
Kracl said she wants to see children who might go hungry during this period receive the daily nutrition needed to thrive, even when they are out of school. As a part of that, Kracl and the Food and Toy Drive will help make sure that the Food Pantry remains stocked for people who need a place to find food during this unprecedented time in the world.
“If one organization has something that another one needs, we’re able to serve those needs,” Kracl said. “(We need) things like diapers, cereal, frozen meat, as well as canned meat. Those things are extremely important at this point in time.”
Toy drive and food pantry officials aren’t alone. Schuyler Community Schools this week started providing grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for kids ages 1-18 each weekday afternoon beginning at 11 a.m. at the middle school (people should enter the south doors on 9th Street). According to SCS Superintendent Dan Hoesing, the district served 1,028 meals in 514 sacks to students and their families on Monday alone.
“Students can pick up their lunch from 11-12:30 (p.m.),” Hoesing said.
Kracl said that the move from the district to provide this, which is in line with efforts that other school districts have made during the COVID-19 crisis, is great because it provides another avenue for at-risk children to have a meal.
“I cannot express to you the great amount of relief for all of our programs when we found out that there would be grab-and-go breakfast and lunch,” Kracl said. “That provided a huge relief to a large number of our groups to at least know that a portion of the children’s meals would continue.”
Gengler said that though the move to provide many children with meals during the day was a good one, she was worried for families who may not have the ability to go and pick up the meals during the designated times. Thus, the need is there for the Food Pantry to continue to serve the community, even when it may not be the overall safest thing to do.
“Not everyone is available during those hours to run to the school and get food,” Gengler said. “Some don’t have transportation (and) some are working, so the pantry needs to be open so that if they don’t have the resources available to them, they can still depend on us being there.”
The Food Pantry is still in need of various meat items, from canned chicken, pork and beef, to frozen ground beef and chicken. The Pantry will remain open during its regular Wednesday time of 5:30-8:30 p.m. and will make sure that people who use the pantry find what they need, whether it’s a good two weeks’ worth of food or something to help them if the crisis continues into July and August.
“Some take as much as they can, others take what they feel they can use,” Gengler said. “We highly stress once a month so we can keep our shelves stocked so we can provide for everyone in need.”
The Colfax Senior Center, often referred to as The Center, is open for home delivery meals and curbside pick-up meals. All meals will be served from 11 a.m.-noon for lunch until further notice.
The Handi Bus is running, after 1 p.m.; people need to call 402-352-3101 to make reservations.
Kracl said that when the people of Schuyler can come together, good things can happen. Although that may be more difficult due to the circumstances, Kracl said she is hopeful that people can continue to find ways to come together, even in a time when being apart can keep them alive.
“I have complete faith that people in these communities will come together,” Kracl said. “We will help each other and we will look after each other. During the flood last year, all we saw were positive people come out and volunteer and help people that they didn’t even know, who might not speak the same language that we do and who don’t have the same cultural background. When it comes to issues like this, we’re all in this together. It’s not about what country you’re from, it’s about ‘Are you human?’ and ‘How can we help you?’”
Zach Roth is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at Zachary.email@example.com
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