Schools delivering food during COVID-19 closure

 

Even though Boyle County and Danville schools have closed for the next few weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school “lunch ladies” are still serving their students a nutritious breakfast and lunch every weekday, free of charge. Any person in the Danville and Boyle County school districts ages 18 and younger can receive the free meals, no matter their family’s ability to pay.

“The reason we are offering this service is because we know that many of our families depend on their children eating these two meals at school daily,” wrote Danville Food Service Director Patty Taylor in an email. “Food insecurity has been an issue for years, and this nationwide pandemic makes it even more crucial that our families continue to get nutritional support.”

Once the decision was made to close the public schools, Boyle County Food Service Director Katie Ellis and Taylor began making calls, sending emails and organizing their mobile feeding programs — something that’s normally offered during the summer months.

In all of her years working to feed students, “this is the first time anybody, anywhere” has set up the feeding programs for so long during the regular school year, Taylor said. “If they have, I sure haven’t heard about it.”

“The situation has been changing so rapidly that it has been a challenge,” Taylor said. Right now, Danville lunch ladies are working in teams at three of the schools. “Those teams are using extreme caution in the preparation and serving of the meals,” she said.

Danville Food Service staff Tammy Lynn prepares to serve lunches to children on Tuesday. (Photo by Robin Hart)

Danville students can pick up a pre-packaged lunch and breakfast to eat the following morning at make-shift drive-thru areas at Danville High School, Toliver Intermediate and Hogsett Primary. Or they can pick up their meals at scheduled times at Bethel Baptist Church, Shakerpoint Apartments; Long Run Apartments; Constitution Square; Patrician Place; Ashely Way; Imperial Motor Home Park and Nichols Terrace.

Taylor said everyone who is handling and delivering the meals are monitoring their temperatures daily.

Taylor hasn’t been able to calculate the exact number of meals her team is planning on serving yet. “My energy is in feeding our kids.”

Boyle Schools Food Service Director Katie Ellis wrote in an email that her staff, the FRYSCs (Family Resource and Youth Services Center) and bus drivers “have dedicated countless hours and resources to ensure that the physical needs of our students are taken care of during this unprecedented time. These people are the true heroes who are working tirelessly to execute our plan to come alongside our families during the COVID-19 closure.”

She added, “As a district, we are fortunate to have laid the groundwork to serve our community in this way and to have people ready to mobilize for the greater good.”

Boyle County Food Service worker Cindy Qualls, and Shannon Colwick, a member of Southside Christian Church, take meals out of coolers for a family who had just driven up to the front doors of Southland Christian Church Wednesday afternoon. Qualls said she loves interacting with the kids and families and being a part of helping the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Robin Hart)

Boyle County students have several locations where drive-thru is available for meal pickups from 9 to 10 a.m. (breakfast only) and from 1 to 2 p.m. (lunch and next day’s breakfast) daily — Junction City Elementary; Perryville Elementary; Perryville Baptist Church; and Boyle County High School. Pickups are open from noon to 2 p.m. at Southland Christian Church.

Also, mobile routes are still being developed for people who can’t get to the previously mentioned locations. To register to be on a mobile food delivery route, Ellis said to go to bit.ly/BCSMEALDELIVERY.

“As we continue to expand our services, we want to ask families to carefully consider traveling to a site. When it is feasible for them, we request that they drive or walk to one of our physical locations,” Ellis wrote in an email. “This will allow us to continue to distribute our resources and serve more families throughout the community.”

Members of Southland Christian Church, located next to Danville Cinemas 8, are combining their food ministry program for families with Boyle’s program, said member Tiffany Jacobs.

Previously, the program gave sacks of food to registered families for them to prepare dinners for weekend nights, Jacobs said. Now they have expanded their program to provide the food during the week as well. Anyone who wants to donate shelf-stable food items may do so at the church’s office door.

Boyle County Food Service worker Cindy Qualls, gets out a couple of meals to take to a family who had just driven up to the front doors of Southland Christian Church Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Robin Hart)

Ellis said people have been asking her who they can help also. “I am directing folks to make contributions of goods and donations of funds to the Backpack Program that is headquartered at Indian Hills Christian Church. This will allow the FRYSCs to distribute more food to families during this time.”