MIDDLETOWN — In a team effort uniting Middletown schools, restaurants and local donors, takeout meals will be provided over the weekend to well over 1,000 students and families in need.
“It’s a win, win, win,” community organizer Patti Anne Vassia, who helped coordinate the plan by securing funds from community organizations and individuals, said in a prepared statement.
“The need was evident. The schools were running out of food inventory after providing an average of 1,300 grab-and-go meals a day to families. The restaurants have inventory they can’t use after being ordered to shut dining rooms, and the modest income they’ll get for providing the meals is income they would not have had,” she added.
Twenty-six restaurants agreed to provide 100 meals each. They will be paid $5 for each meal delivered. With 100 meals from each of the restaurants, schools, already set-up to provide meals, will be able to distribute meals Saturday and Sunday, according to a press release.
“We’re providing the kitchen, janitorial and campus security staff,” Marco Gaylord, Middletown Schools Chief of Operations, said in the release. “That staff is going to be augmented by community volunteers who have signed up in great numbers.”
“I wanted to do something for the community, and my friends who own local restaurants,” said Chu Ngo, owner of Lan Chi’s Vietnamese restaurant on Main Street. “In normal times, we would provide food and service for free. These are not normal times. The whole idea is to help the students and families in the community we love, and to help the restaurants at the same time,” she said in the statement.
Middletown has a school population of 4,564 in the public schools, 194 students in adult education and 287 in magnet schools. Students who receive free and reduced lunches make up more than 40 percent of the total student population. Middletown’s total population is approximately 48,000.
“We’re providing meals for all students who need it,” Gaylord said. “In the first four days of operation, we provided 5,389 meals, and our inventory is down, so providing weekend meals would have been difficult before our supplies are replenished for next week.”
Donors of the $13,000 in funds for the weekend meal project include the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, Middlesex United Way, Rotary Club of Middletown, Women’s Initiative of Middlesex United Way, Kiwanis Club of Middletown, Michael DiPiro, City of Middletown and Middletown Board of Education.
“One of our focus areas is financial stability,” said Kevin Wilhelm, president and CEO of the Middlesex United Way. “We will do whatever we can to help families endure, even in the midst of a pandemic. Keeping families afloat and healthy is one of our top priorities, so we are eager to step up to ensure that happens.”
“I think it’s a great effort,” Mayor Ben Florsheim said in the statement. “The fact that the schools, restaurants and community organizations were able to create this partnership for students speaks volumes about how Middletown people want to help one another.”
“We began this effort just two days ago,” Vassia said Friday. “I’ve never felt so high about doing such great work so quickly. Ours is an amazing community with top governmental, nonprofit, educational and business folks working together to meet needs and support our kids. We must continue to this good work going forward, especially in these difficult times.”