By Nathan Ham
Through the dedicated hard work of school faculty, cafeteria workers, and volunteers, the meal program put together by Watauga County Schools has been able to have an extremely positive impact on families across the county. According to Garrett Price, the director of communications for Watauga County Schools, the school system hopes to continue the program through the end of July.
“We plan to move to a Monday through Thursday meal program starting June 1 at all of our current sites,” said Price. “Starting June 15, we will reduce kitchen operations and curbside service to five sites but we will continue all bus deliveries. These changes are intended to ensure that we have the staff to continue this hard work through the summer. We will make sure that any child who needs food still has access to it.”
Since schools were first closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, Watauga’s meal program has served over 186,000 meals, which averages out to about 4,500 meals a day at the seven different meal distribution sites operated across the county. Price says that there have been 30 members of the child nutrition program, 11 bus drivers, and numerous teacher assistants, custodians, and maintenance staff members that have all worked or volunteered with the meals program.
“It has really been a group effort from everyone,” he said.
Becky Trivette, the cafeteria manager at Hardin Park Elementary School, said that providing these meals to students helps keep a little bit of normalcy in their lives.
“A lot of parents have said it’s familiar for students to have a school meal and that helps the kids deal with the changes they have experienced,” said Trivette. “It’s good to see our kids, we don’t get to see many of them, and we get to see kids from all over the county now, not just kids from within our community.”
In addition to the workers who prepare the food at the schools, bus drivers transport meals to designated pick-up areas across the county. Two volunteers ride the bus along with the driver to hand off food to families that may not be able to get to the schools to pick up the meals during the designated times.
More information on the five locations that will be used during the summer after June 15 will be announced at a later date.
Photos by Ken Ketchie