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Hernando school lunch handouts help local families

The school district distributed 2,500 meals on Tuesday.

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SPRING HILL — Arlene Taylor has become the enforcer of a new code of behavior that her four grandchildren, ages 3 to 8, aren’t readily grasping.

She reminds them to wash their hands when they come in from playing outside. And she reminds them the next time, and the next time. And the need for social distancing is lost on them.

“Kids are always lovey and always want to hug on somebody, and it’s kind of hard for them,’’ said Taylor, a Spring Hill resident.

She stopped at Delta Woods Park to pick up free lunches and breakfasts for the children. The Hernando County School District is distributing meals at several locations while students are out of school until at least April 15, so ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The district handed out more than 2,500 meals on Tuesday.

Arlene Taylor (right) accompanies her grandchildren as they line up for prepackaged student meals at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill.
Arlene Taylor (right) accompanies her grandchildren as they line up for prepackaged student meals at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]

“It’s been a blessing,’’ said Taylor, noting that it’s a challenge finding something everyday to prepare for them at home. “Coming here is very helpful, for them to get something in their stomachs. That’s what’s most important, that they’re eating.’’

The school district’s food and nutrition “rock stars,’’ as the district’s public information officer calls them, handed out more than 1,800 meals on Monday.

“It went remarkably well, was the feedback I got,’’’ said Hernando schools superintendent John Stratton, talking about the first day’s distribution. Stratton, visiting the busy Explorer K8 site on Tuesday, said the distribution will continue for as long as students are out of school.

“We’re just happy to be able to fill the need,’’ he said.

Food and nutrition services assistant Amanda McKernan hands out prepackaged school meals on Tuesday at Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill.
Food and nutrition services assistant Amanda McKernan hands out prepackaged school meals on Tuesday at Explorer K-8 School in Spring Hill. [ MICHELE MILLER | Times ]

Nutritionists and volunteers wear rubber gloves and varied forms of face protection, from masks to bandanas. They served cheeseburgers for lunch on Monday, chicken sandwiches on Tuesday, and were set to hand out hot dogs on Wednesday. They also provide the next day’s breakfast. On Tuesday, it was cereal, milk and juice.

“The parents are so appreciative,’’ said nutritionist Claire Walton, “because they say the store shelves are running out of food. And they’re so happy we’re providing them breakfast for the next day and lunch for this day.’’

Walton, who works at Springstead High School, talked from behind a colorful bandana while working with volunteers at Delta Woods Park. She said she isn’t worried about catching the coronavirus.

“No, I’m not worried at all,’’ she said. “We’re very protected at the school with the gloves, and we have masks coming in. We take all the precautions necessary.’’

Christie Forrester, who brought her 10-year-old son, Dan, to the Delta Woods Park site, is one of the appreciative parents.

“This is very helpful for this community, especially having kids at home,’’ she said. “And if you’re not used to budgeting and not working, then it really helps the community a lot.’’

She said her family is doing fine currently.

“We’re doing our social distancing and everything. We’re doing what we need to do,’’ she said. But she and her husband, a truck driver and sole breadwinner, are apprehensive about the future as the coronavirus continues to spread.

“We’re very worried about that,’’ she said.

William Gulley worries about losing his job as a home caregiver to elderly clients. His company may decide to shut down, he said, or too many of the clients — themselves afraid of catching the virus — may drop the service.

But a bright spot, to hear him talk, is the district’s meal distribution program. He gave it high marks as he waited at the Explorer K8 drive-thru with his 13-year-old stepdaughter, Mon’nek Wilson.

“So far, it’s been really good. It’s easy,’’ he said.

Meal pickup information

All Hernando County students 18 and younger will be able to pick up the free grab-and-go meals, but students must be present to receive them. They’ll be handed lunch and breakfast for the next morning.

Families can drive through to pick up the meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday at: Brooksville Elementary, Chocachatti Elementary, Deltona Elementary, Eastside Elementary, J.D. Floyd Elementary, Pine Grove Elementary, Spring Hill Elementary, Suncoast Elementary, Westside Elementary, Challenger K8, Explorer K8 and Winding Waters K8.

Students also can pick up meals at these other locations and times:

  • Hammock Ridge Apartments, 11 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Bridgewater Club Apartments, 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
  • Nantucket Cove Apartments, 12:30 to 1 p.m.
  • Brookhaven Apartments, 11 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Freedom Garden Apartments, 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
  • South Brooksville Elks Lodge, 12:30 to 1 p.m.
  • Delta Woods Park, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

School buses will be running and offer meals at these bus stops:

  • Ridge Manor: Snowberry Loop and Sherman Hills Boulevard, 11:30 a.m.; Leisure Street and Pleasant Lane, noon; Evergreen Way and Bobwhite Court, 12:30 p.m.; Laumer Road and Reynolds Street, 1 p.m.
  • Hernando Beach: Arbutus Avenue and Westside Avenue, 11:30 a.m.; Gettysburg Drive and Richard Drive, noon; First Baptist Church, 12:35 p.m.; Sea Bass Drive and Cobia Drive, 1 p.m.
  • Lake Lindsey, Nobleton: Blackjack Street and Danmar Avenue, 11:30 a.m.; Forbes Street and Edgewater Avenue, noon; Freewalt Street and Stevens Avenue, 12:30 p.m.; and Lake Lindsey United Methodist Church, 1:15 p.m.

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