Tri-County School Head Cook Amy Olson and her Assistant Cook Kayla Gonshorowski busily filled styrofoam boxes with chicken, potatoes, and buns on an August 17 morning in the school’s kitchen, while both wearing “Live Generously” t-shirts.
Thanks to federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), schools such as Tri-County and Lancaster were able to serve free meals to students again this summer.
Monday through Thursday starting in early June, both schools worked on putting these meals together, each including Friday meals on Thursday. The last day of each program fell on August 26.
Tri-County provided breakfast and lunch meals for pick-up in the school’s front entrance— using coolers and food warmers to keep the food in good condition— and also delivered them. Lancaster served pick-up meals at the school.
Tri-County served 155 to 165 meals on an average day between pick-up and delivery. This grew from when the program started this summer, beginning at between 115 and 118 meals per day.
“The government’s offering free meals right now… to help everybody out,” Olson said. “(Previous Superintendent-Principal) Mr. Baron came up with this idea, proposed it to us and that’s how it got started.”
Olson admitted how the program started off slow, explaining how the first day of the program they fell far behind.
“It was bumpy to start. I’m not going to lie,” Olson said.
How is it going of late?
“We’ve found our groove and gotten better,” Olson said.
She added how they deliver meals to Middle River, Greenbush, Lake Bronson, Newfolden, and everywhere in between, putting on about 165 miles per day.
As for Lancaster, it also saw interest in this program grow. Offering both and hot and cold meal options each day, Lancaster served about 60 meals per day in June, according to Lancaster School Food Service Director Alana Scalese. Taking July off, it then served about 120 to 130 meals per day in August.
“We’re serving about 650 lunches a week and then it’s about the same for breakfast… That’s a lot. I mean, for a town of 300 people,” Scalese said. “… People from other towns can come if they don’t have the service available in their town.”
In August, the Lancaster program put a couple tables down to allow some students to sit down and eat.
“Kids have been coming in. You just have a lot of town kids that ride their bikes up and they just kind of plan to meet and they sit and visit and eat,” Scalese said. “And so that’s been nice too. You get some kind of socialization while they eat and things just kind of feel normal for them I think.”
What do these meals generally consist of? Scalese explained how each meal meets the meal pattern requirements set by the USDA, including grains, meats or meat alternatives, milk, fruits, and vegetables. Both breakfast and lunch meals require milk, according to Scalese.
Both programs have received a positive reception.
“Parents say they like it,” Olson said.
Having done this program last year as well, Scalese said she has seen the same people return this year, plus some new people.
“I feel like the word kind of spread and those that have participated in it before found it beneficial, because they came back again,” Scalese said. “And I mean, everything we hear from people is that they just really are grateful.”
She has three children in the program, so understands the benefits of it from a parent’s perspective.
“It takes just something off of a mom’s plate in the summer,” Scalese said. “… It’s just nice to know when my husband’s working and when I’m working, and they’re (my children) kind of on their own in the summer that they come in (and) I know that they have gotten a nice, good lunch every single day. And it takes one more thing off of my plate as a mom.”
To see the complete story, read the September 2 issue of the North Star News in print or online.