(by Karen Campbell, Weakley County Schools Communications Director)
After a virtual meeting with cafeteria managers Tuesday, Weakley County Schools Nutrition Director Trista Snider was confident that the Monday through Friday meal distribution would continue throughout the now extended school closure.
“Stepping up and working out a system for meeting the nutritional needs of our children from across the county in a matter of hours was an amazing feat,” noted Snider of the overnight turnaround her staff faced when schools closed March 17.
“And preparing almost 8,000 meals on Friday with limited resources for packed lunches and breakfasts was a miracle. But the nutrition staff, with the help of administrators, teachers, educational assistants, school support staff and SROs did it. And we are ready to keep doing it until our students return,” she added.
Due to plans to be open the week prior to spring break, the cafeteria meal choices had been set for primarily hot meals, Snider pointed out. Items that could be packaged and distributed via a drive-through system were limited and couldn’t be delivered until this week, so her staff had to get creative.
Another obstacle that was overcome were students who had no one to transport them to the meal distribution sites. Phone calls made by teachers last week helped to identify any students who did not have transportation and allowed the schools to respond.
The current 13 locations were selected to cover the county and to minimize the time children would have to spend in the car since state regulations require they be present to receive the free meals.
Those locations are:
• Gleason School
• Greenfield School
• Dresden Elementary/Middle
• Sharon School
• Martin Elementary
• Martin Housing’s Tom and Ann Stuart Community Center
• Pillowville Country Store
• Sidonia Fire Department
• Palmersville Fire Department
• Mitchell Transport in Latham
• Ruthville Baptist Church
• Jolley Springs Baptist Church in Como
Last week 11,584 breakfasts and lunches were prepared and ultimately reached 1,294 children and youth. Students do not have to attend public schools to receive the meals.
This week has seen the numbers served exceed 1,000 each day even with severe weather on Tuesday.
Weakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier praised the work of the cafeteria workers and the volunteers enlisted by the school principals.
“The work that so many are putting in to ensure that our children do not go hungry and have at least a glimpse of familiar faces as they drive through and see their teachers and others handing out the meals is greatly appreciated by not only myself but the community. I’ve heard from folks from throughout the county expressing their appreciation,” he said.
He also noted that if the closure were to extend beyond the now April 24 deadline, the school system would be prepared to continue providing meals for as long as necessary.
“Before the crisis, we were allowed to feed in the summer. We always have an open summer site feeding through the month of June,” he explained. “We will probably get flexibility to serve at least through June and if this crisis goes on I think you’d see them say we’d feed through school starting.”
The total number of children fed is provided each afternoon at weakleyschools.com.