Even before COVID-19 hit our area, 40% of the children in Easton Elementary schools were considered ‘food insecure.’ Through programs such as FARMs (free and reduced-priced meals) that work with Talbot County Public School (TCPS) and Sodexo (the company that provides the food), these children and others in the school community throughout the area received breakfast and lunches during the school week. The group, CarePacks, made sure they were fed on the weekends.
Emily Moody and Megan Cook, also partnering with TCPS and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, founded CarePacks eight years ago. They had a clear goal: ‘to provide every eligible student with a backpack filled with healthy, easily accessible meals and snacks every Friday afternoon so that when students return to school on Mondays, they are well-nourished and ready to learn.’
This year, CarePacks started a family-style pantry weekend program at Easton Elementary, sending larger staples such as frozen meats, breads, and produce home to the families on the 4th Friday of each month. The need was high. “There’s a lot of poverty happening that maybe people aren’t aware,” says Cook. “Talbot County has a high FARMs rate, and a lot of our families are the working poor. These are people who are working multiple jobs, yet have limited income. And as the costs go up, what gets squeezed over time is the amount that they can spend on groceries.”
Now with school closures, all programs have had to redefine how to assist those in need within the community. TCPS and Sodexo have been packaging three meals and a snack a day for anyone between the ages of 2 and 18. These meals are then either being picked up throughout nine designated sites throughout Talbot County or delivered using volunteers and/or TCPS buses.
CarePack has also expanded its outreach from a monthly to a weekly weekend delivery for families. “Last Friday we packed and ordered for 250 families,” says Cook. “This week, we packed and ordered and delivered for 500 families. We anticipate our numbers to grow.”
CarePack is grateful for all the help they’ve received. “We did a Facebook ask and raised funds to purchase 4,000 pounds last week,” says Cook. “TCPS staff have been fabulous! Helping distribute the food either at the middle schools, remote sites or door to door. St Marks Church delivered food for a neighborhood.” This, in addition to the businesses and groups, such as Rotary, Lions Club, women’s groups, retired teaches, etc., that have always supported them under normal circumstances. “Whenever we’ve needed anything, someone or some group has stepped forward. It’s been like that since day one and continues today. The last few weeks have been no different. Everyone bands together to get the job done. It’s an amazing community we live in.”
There are many ways to help; however, as things are rapidly changing and evolving, Cook recommends following them on Facebook, where they post their most current need.