SOUTH PORTLAND — The Boy & Girls Club, at 169 Broadway, has been providing students grab-and-go dinners Mondays through Fridays as a means of assistance during school closures.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine are offering “Grab-and-go” meals Monday through Friday for students younger than 19. Courtesy Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine

Any student under the age of 19 can pick up a paper-bag dinner from 4 to 5 p.m., outside of the facility, that meets USDA guidelines, and thanks to Unum Group and Harvard Pilgrim, food has also been available for adults, said Karen MacDonald, chief operating officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine.

While the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine provide dinners for members regularly, the organization decided to provide an alternative meal option for students in need of a safety net that also prevents the spread of germs, as students can pick up a meal and eat at home, said MacDonald.

Last week, more than 500 people took advantage of the dinners across the southern Maine locations, 166 of those in South Portland, she said.

“We expect numbers to expand,” said MacDonald. “We’ll be prepared to serve as many people as needed.”

Students don’t need to be regular club members to receive a dinner, she added. Staff do not keep track of names nor do they ask anyone to sign in.

In addition to food, said CEO Brian Elowe, the Boys & Girls Club is providing activity and enrichment packets while students are at home.

“It’s important for kids to stay connected during this time, when they can’t get into the clubs or schools,” he said. “We’re essentially building a virtual club and our clubs are providing a daily schedule of online activities. We’re working on the details. The food program was our immediate priority, and now we’re making sure that kids can still have fun and learn.”

Other locations providing dinners include the three Portland clubhouses and the Auburn one, said MacDonald.

As a safety precaution, the clubs are not taking volunteer help.

“I will say, we’ve had lots of people asking to volunteer, which is great, but we’re limiting the amount of people to prevent spreading of the virus,” said MacDonald.

Food items in the bags include turkey and cheese sandwiches, chips and salsa, cheese sticks, apples and carrots, and other kinds of snack items, she said. Kids have been enjoying the snacks and the variety.

Normally, the Boys & Girls Club provides students a place to learn, play, develop skills like cooking, and ensures they have a plan for the future, after high school graduation, MacDonald said. The South Portland location has about 120 members, with membership being $5 a year or if that proves to be a challenge, fees can be waived.

“We certainly want to extend our thanks to all the communities who have supported us during this particular time for increased need,” said Elowe. “We’re appreciating the help.”

To find similar kinds of programs and assistance, South Portland residents can visit www.southportland.org/community.

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