A “historic” nationwide project to feed hungry children and their hungry heads was unveiled in Newark on Tuesday afternoon.

A long chain of automobiles lined the university drive at Ohio State University and COTC locations, and snaked even further down Granville Road. Each car received the first to be distributed.

Most of the cars contained children who had come to collect their specialty boxes in person – the first of 50,000 such free kits expected to be distributed across all 88 Ohio counties over the next few months.

From left, Licking County Commissioner Duane Flowers, Heath-Newark-Licking County's CEO Rick Platt, and County Commissioner Rick Black help prepare kits for distribution.

The Center for Science and Industry (COSI), the state of Ohio, state educational institutions, museums, cultural organizations, and a number of local, licking county and state officials attended the launch of the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative in Newark.

The Ohio Distance Learning Initiative is an innovative program led by COSI and a collaboration of food providers, libraries, museums, and cultural institutions across the state to provide the 50,000 free, hands-on science kits called Learning Lunchboxes.

Of the many partnerships and parties that have come together to make the project possible, Frederic Bertley, President and CEO of COSI said, “We are making history here.” He said such partnerships are vital to COSI: “You are such a lifeline. “

Historically designed for distribution alongside food programs, the boxes feature five activities in line with Ohio learning standards, promoting science, technology, engineering, art, math (STEAM), culture, history, and more.

The learning lunchboxes are tailored to specific topics, e.g. B. “Space”, which was created in collaboration with NASA.

Frederic Bertley, President and CEO of COSI, has a chat with Tim Bubb, Licking County's Commissioner.

It was the space-themed boxes that were picked up in Newark by various members of the COSI team, representatives from The Works, Licking County Commissioners, Duane Flowers, Tim Bubb and Rick Black, Senator Jay Hottinger and the Mayor of Newark, Jeff Hall.

According to COSI, around 1,200 kits were distributed on Tuesday afternoon.

When the long chain of cars lined up to get the kits, Mayor Hall said, “This is a wonderful project with great little five-day science projects.”

Hall spoke of the possible “leaps” in education and educational opportunities the pandemic has brought for students in the area, especially younger students.

“Children live by consistency,” said Hall. “The children had a very difficult year.”

In fact, COSI will also be distributing a limited number of free kits to “each of Ohio’s 611 school districts to improve classroom learning.”

Duane Flowers, Licking County’s Commissioner, said learning STEM and STEAM is becoming increasingly important, “especially in today’s world. It’s just another opportunity for young children to look at the opportunities out there … There are so many opportunities out there. “

Rick Platt, CEO of Heath-Newark-Licking County’s Port Authority, agreed, “You need these STEM-enabled people. It starts in kindergarten when you think about it and parents realize that there are employers in the community who crave these STEM skills. The pandemic shows that these are the careers that have enduring power. “

The runners for the special boxes were delivered by COSI for distribution in Newark on Tuesday, March 30th.

According to a press release, COSI will continue to distribute a limited number of the STEAM kits, subject to availability, in Ohio’s 88 counties in 2021 to promote home and community learning.

At some locations, “the meals are also distributed via local food bank partners so that together we can contribute to feeding hungry lives and hungry minds.”

This was the case in Newark on March 30th. After picking up the STEAM kits, the cars were able to continue on the curve of University Drive to another station where Licking County’s Food Pantry Network was distributing boxes of meals.

The second community distribution is scheduled for April in Cincinnati.

The full list of websites can be found at https://cosi.org/ohio-distance-learning.

For more information on visiting a sales website to get a learning lunchbox (while supplies last), please visit https://cosi.org/ohio-distance-learning.