School buildings may be closed for the remainder of the academic year, but every school district in the state is working hard to feed children–all children, ages 1-18, no matter their home school district.
“We are serving whoever shows up at one of our seven [distribution] sites,” said Staci Schneider, Parent Involvement Coordinator at Riverside School District. “At the beginning we needed to see the kids, but about two weeks in, we got word from the federal government that we didn’t need to see the kids any longer. We don’t ask for identification and the children do not need to be present.”
In recent weeks U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a relaxing of laws surrounding qualifications for and the distribution of food to school children.
“Right now, USDA and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing but are still receiving healthy and nutritious food,” Purdue said in a March 17th press release.
Area school districts are using drive up sites, school bus routes, and in the case of Mary Walker School District, delivering food weekly to children directly to their front doors.
“Our kids are rural. Most of them live at least 20 miles away from Springdale,” said Edwina Hargrave, Program and Food Services Director at Mary Walker School District. “It is difficult for them to come to school to get meals.”
That’s why the team at Mary Walker has been loading up the school buses every Wednesday with five day’s worth of meals for 317 children. They then drive to the students’ homes to deliver it.
“It’s been fantastic,” Hargrave said. “The kids are so excited to get it, and the parents have been thankful.”
“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people,” said Brad Van Dyne, Loon Lake School District Superintendent. His staff is using a combination of a bus route and drive up locations to help area children.
Van Dyne said initially, many of the 76 families in his small school district thought that by utilizing the free lunch system, other children in greater need would be left without.
“This is not the case at all,” Van Dyne said and, “We’re working hard to let them know they can reach out for whatever they need.”
Public school lunch programs receive funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and schools are still receiving these funds. They must be used to feed school children. Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has also made it clear that feeding the state’s children is a top priority for school districts, said Karla Shaffer, Food Services Director for both Deer Park and Riverside School Districts.
Shaffer is directing the distribution of more than 500 lunches per day at Riverside School District, and 350 per day at Deer Park School District.
“With the regulations relaxed, the parents can come in and get the meals to take home to their kids,” Shaffer said. Unlike a typical summer lunch program, “We don’t have to see the kids and they don’t have to stay on site and eat it.”
Shaffer said that with the relaxed laws, she and her team can get creative in what they provide in their meals. “It opens up our menu options because now they can take it home and microwave it,” she said. “It helps us use up our commodities too. Thankfully, we got a large food shipment just days before the shutdown and we’ve been able to use it.”
Shaffer said the school districts have seen a steady increase in the number of meals they are providing. This brings a smile to the staff, who feel they are providing a valuable service at all times, but now more than ever.
“My staff and crews in both districts are amazing people,” she said. “They work tirelessly. They are heroes.”
Deer Park School District Distribution Locations:
- Deer Park Elementary
- Deer Park Middle School
- Deer Park Administration/Home Link Building
- Clayton Home Link
- Corner of Dalton and Owens Roads
- Corner of Dalton and Montgomery Roads
- Corner of Williams Valley and Price Roads 11am-11:25am
- Corner of Swenson and Bittrich Antler Roads 11:30am to 12pm
For more information: www.dpsd.org
Riverside School District Distribution Locations:
- Riverside Elementary
- Chattaroy Elementary
- Elk Sentinel
- Rustic Ridge Mobile Park
- Aloha Pines Mobile Park
- Fire Station 40 on Elk-Chattaroy Road
- Peaceful Valley Church
For more information: www.riversidesd.org
For questions, please call 509-464-8234
Mary Walker School District Distribution Information
- Food is being distributed via a school bus system
To be added to the route, please call 509-688-9864
You may also check the school’s Facebook page; look for notifications through the school’s Honeywell notification system on your phone, or visit the website: www.marywalker.org
Loon Lake School District Distribution Information
- Mondays: pickup Monday and Tuesday food at the school from 9am-11am
- Wednesdays: pickup food for Wed-Fri at the school from 9am-11am
- A bus distribution option is also available
For more information call 509-233-2212