The Paterson school district has teamed up with the United Way of Passaic County on a program to provide students and their families with home delivery of seven days' worth of meals.

"As long as this pandemic continues, we simply cannot do enough to keep our students food secure," said Paterson Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer.

A year ago when the pandemic first hit, the school district started giving out meals to students. First, they started out with 14 meal sites but now it's down to eight meal sites because they lost some volunteers due to the pandemic. Shafer said right before the holiday break, the schools started handing out meals seven days a week.

Through these eight distribution sites, the school district has been able to hand out 2.5 million meals so far to students and their families, said Shafer.

While students still have the option to pick up their meals, Shafer said the home delivery option is so much more convenient for families. There are parents who were either sick with COVID-19, or are working from home and can't leave their job to pick up meals. Some had childcare issues.

"We certainly have enough people on unemployment that we don't want our parents who are working from home to lose their jobs. My main goal is to make sure that our students have food security," said Shafer.

So partnering with the United Way, Shafer said this gives families a home delivery option. All they have to do is fill out a form online at www.paterson.k12.nj.us. If they qualify, the meals will be delivered to them and that will be enough food for seven days a week.

Shafer said the only qualification is that every Paterson student looking for meals, must live at least a mile away from a meal site. The Food Services Department, partnering with Food Corps/United Way, has developed an online tool that determines whether they live beyond the one-mile distance.

Through state emergency COVID-19 funding, MotivCare is the transportation company that will be doing the deliveries. Shafer said two vehicles with drivers will make deliveries twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Meal deliverers will either call or text a household prior to their arrival, giving families advanced notice of the meals being delivered. She said families must be home. Food will not be left on door steps.

While 2.5 million meals have been given out so far, Shafer said there  is no set number they are trying to reach. Her goal is to make sure that every child is well-fed. Parents have enough to worry about during this pandemic, she added. They don't need to worry about where the next meal is coming from.

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