Local schools and many community organizations are helping to provide food and meals to those in need, after local school districts closed following state recommendations.

At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear recommended that all public and private schools consider ceasing in-person classes for an extended period of time starting Monday, March 16, to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Following this recommendation, the Pikeville Independent Schools District announced that it will be closed from March 16 to April 6, the Pike County Schools District announced that it will be closed from March 16-27 and the St. Francis of Assisi School in Pikeville will be closed from March 16 to April 6.

Local school employees and many community organizations are continuing to provide food and meals to students and families in need who may be affected by the closure of schools.

The Pikeville Independent Schools District’s Panther Cafe is providing meals at Pikeville High School from March 16-20 and Pikeville Elementary School from March 23 through 27. Breakfast meals can be picked up from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and lunch meals can be picked up from 11 a.m. to noon. All Pikeville Independent students and/or children who are 18 years-old or younger will eat for free.

Starting Monday, Food Service employees with the Pike County Schools District began providing meals at the area high schools between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. from Monday through Friday. This includes meal times for both breakfast and lunch. Meals will be distributed to each child, ages 18 and under, who are present at the school for pick up. Meals will not be consumed on site, and students may pick the meals up and take them home for consumption.

The Grace Fellowship Community Kitchen serves free meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays at the Grace Fellowship Church at 115 Wolford Street, and all are welcome to come and receive a free meal. Meals will be handed out at the door. To learn more about the ministry, visit “The Grace Fellowship Community Kitchen,” or visit, www.gracefellowshippikevilleky.com.

The East Kentucky Dream Center, located at 127 Hibbard Street in Pikeville will serve free meals from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for the next few weeks. Adults and children are welcome. Meals will be packed and handed out the door for everyone who comes. The center will continue to deliver meals to Myers Towers, Housing Authority of Pikeville, at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. If you live in Myers Towers, call, (606) 766-3434, to be added to the delivery list.

Rachel Campbell Dotson, executive director of EKDC, said that although this is a scary time for the public and for many of the volunteers at EKDC — many being middle-aged or older, which is considered an at-risk population for the coronavirus (COVID-19) — she said that the meals they provide could help provide the only meal that someone could be able to get that day, which is important.

“It shows them that we’re here to help,” Campbell-Dotson said.

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