COVID-19 closes schools, community respond with love lunches

ST. PETERSBURG — School closures due to COVID-19 have impacted life for Pinellas County residents in many ways. As families strive to find alternatives to childcare, move towards virtual education, and manage employment concerns, a group of local leaders has united to alleviate one problem: access to nutritious meals. 

According to 2019-2020 data from the Florida Department of Education and Pinellas County Schools, between 55,000-60,000 youth are eligible for free or reduced lunches in Pinellas county; 60 percent of all students.  

Pivoting to address the new challenges caused by closures, a consortium of community initiatives have joined forces to offer Love Lunches; free meals, made with love, for local children. In the first two weeks, over 2,500 residents were provided with breakfast and lunches. 

Staff and volunteers adhere to CDC and County guidelines, including wearing gloves, utilizing hand sanitizer, and asking families to stay in their cars while meals are distributed. 

Previous Love Lunches have included a protein, fruit, vegetable and a grain. Breakfast meals have included milk, fruit, a granola bar, or a muffin, but meals may vary. Residents can visit the Center for Health Equity, 2333 34th St. S, on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., to obtain a to-go meal through April 10th. Children must be present at the time of pick-up. 

Love Lunches are made possible by PattyeCakes LLC, The Gathering of Women, Urban League Young Professionals, Youth Farm, Community Development and Training Center (CDAT), 8 Kings Collective, Feeding Tampa Bay, commUNITY friends and the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

For a list of other local food providers offering free, nutritious meals for students, please visit https://211tampabay.org/home/food-and-meals/

About the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg is a private foundation working with the communities of Pinellas County to eradicate inequality, achieve racial and health equity, and improve population health. The Foundation inspires and empowers people, organizations, ideas, and relationships to ensure that every person equitably achieves optimal health and well-being.

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