Hallandale, Fla. – Although undeniably beneficial – especially during a worldwide pandemic – food giveaways tend to feature nonperishable items.

Which points up the fact that in many communities, children in particular tend not to have access to fresh produce.

The Children’s Services Council of Broward County is partnering with an organization that is providing just that to schools in underserved communities.

The Mobile School Pantry (MSP) will distribute today, Thursday, at a school in Hallandale, next Tuesday in Lauderhill, and is making the rounds throughout Broward County.

“No one should go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Zeina Zein-Wolland, founder/president of the 501(c)3 nonprofit.

“With school closures, job disruptions, and health risks, so many in our communities will turn to organizations like Mobile School Pantry for muchneeded support.

“The most vulnerable people in our communities need us now more than ever,” Zein-Wolland said, as she outlined how Mobile School Pantry is responding to the challenge.

“In lieu of our usual Choice Farmer’s Market-Style model, we have implemented a new drive-thru pickup system,” she said.

• Families registered with MSP are notified via text 1-2 days in advance, with details on location and a request to confirm if and how they are able to attend

• On the day of the pickup, fresh produce and other nutritional goods are sourced from several local partners and are delivered to an outdoor “packing” location 

• A limited number of volunteers pack all items into new, donated reusable bags while wearing protective gloves we provide and masks they bring.

• The bags are then delivered to the designated school pickup location where families are provided with explicit instructions to remain in their vehicles with doors and windows closed, for their safety and the safety of volunteers who will place the packed bags into the trunks of the vehicles.

• MSP is sourcing more items such as pasta, rice, tuna, cereal, milk and proteins through various vendors to see

what additional essentials it can add during COVID-19, said Zein-Wolland.

• “We are also rethinking our model for our new innovative bus, Sprout. We are planning on relocating all the interior baskets to the outside exterior for an outdoor shopping experience that will help with longterm social distancing come fall distributions.”

Zein-Wolland said that on March 31, MSP “implemented our first drive-thru pickup at Martin Luther King Elementary. Over 175 families were provided with a variety of 22 different fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Her group is prepared to continue their model until the school district, Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control “have determined the risk of the continued COVID-19 spread no longer poses a threat to all of our communities,” she said, “and have pre-scheduled dates using this new drive-thru model until August.”

They continue to work with other partners “to find new innovative ways to get food to those who need it most,” she said. “We will need support more than ever as so many in our communities face drastic pay cuts and unemployment. We need access to additional funds, food, volunteers and additional reusable bags to pack in. Bags are a great way for businesses to show their support and presence without being present. (We estimate the need of 500 bags per week).

“Our volunteer driven nonprofit would not be able to support our local neighbors in need without the daily help of incredible volunteers,” ZeinWolland added.

“On behalf of the children and families we serve throughout Broward County, we are so grateful for your support during this unprecedented time. We are stronger together! And together we will feed near or far.”

Email her at info@mobileschoolpantry.org or visit mobileschoolpantry.org.