WARSAW – Two restaurants are working with Warsaw Community Schools to provide meals for children during the mandatory school closure.
Due to the increasing numbers of families registering children for free meals, the logistics of serving more than 15,000 meals in a matter of a few hours has been daunting, the school district said in a prepared statement.
Preparing this large volume of food in a short period of time, while practicing appropriate social distancing, limits the number of people working in close proximity to one another. Keeping staff safe while meeting the essential needs of our children is a top priority. In meeting this challenge, WCS sought the guidance of Chef Scott Tope, Warsaw. Within days of schools being closed and receiving stay-at-Home orders, Chef Scott contacted Marci Franks, Director of WCS Food Service to ask how he could be of assistance, the news release said.
Less than a week later, the first steps in partnering with local restaurants began to take place. Working together, Chef Scott, WCS Assistant Director of Food Service, Stacie Light, and Marci Franks met with local restaurateurs Chris Katris from American Table and Jason Brown from One Ten Craft Meatery to develop a plan.
The USDA does not mandate that schools offer food service during closures due to the pandemic. This decision is left to local school superintendents and school boards who are encouraged to provide USDA feeding programs to ensure that the nutritional needs of children in need are met during extended closures. WCS is operating under a summer meal program waiver that currently allows meals to be taken home in order to reduce disease transmission. Every Monday during the closure, meals for five days are distributed at one time providing each child with breakfast and lunch for a total of ten meals for the week. Meals include shelf-stable items as well as fresh and frozen foods.
Rigorous standards must be met by food service establishments in order to be properly licensed by state and local health departments. These standards are followed by the USDA nutritional specifications required for all school and summer meal programs. With the required elements in place, the next step was to create a menu and put each restaurant to work to provide specific food items to be included with the week of meals being distributed.
On any given school day, almost 50% of children attending WCS depend on the school meals provided with some schools over 65%. These numbers increase almost daily as more families are faced with layoffs and the loss of income as a result of COVID-19, the statement said.
Partnering with local restaurants is a “win-win-win.” Restaurants are able to keep employees working, WCS food service staff can spend less time at work and more time in the safety of their home with loved ones and children throughout our community will receive the healthy meals they need.
Free meals are distributed each Monday at Lakeview Middle School between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. to any child through age 18. Children are not required to be present but must be registered in advance to allow adequate time for preparation.
It is not necessary to register more than once to receive meals each Monday. Registration opens weekly beginning at 5 p.m. Monday through 5 p.m. Thursday for the next week. WCS staff, along with community volunteers, hand the meals out through a curbside delivery system.
WCS also offers a bus delivery of meals door-to-door to prequalified WCS families without transportation. Families currently not receiving free or reduced meal benefits are encouraged to apply today if there has been a change in family income. While not required for the free meals provided during the school closure, benefits extend for the first 30 days of the 2020-2021 school year to help families recover financially. Online applications are available at www.wcsfoodandnutrition.org
Warsaw Community Schools is grateful for the partnership with local restaurants American Table and One Ten Craft Meatery as another example of how this community comes together to support one another, the news release said.