Schools stay busy delivering meals and class materials to students during closure

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered public schools closed on March 15, and since then cafeteria crews have been busy whipping up hundreds of meals a day for children to be delivered along bus routes and other drop off locations.

The Jackson County Public Schools meal program is a school meal-delivery system that allows children in Jackson County, ages 1-18, the opportunity to receive school-prepared breakfast and lunch meals at no cost. School buses are the primary delivery method for this program.

Blue Ridge School cafeteria crews are busy cranking out hundreds of meals a day to feed students breakfast and lunch during the school closure ordered by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper. From left are Carla Frizzell and Betty Morris rocking it in the cafeteria at BRS. Photo by Kristy McCall

This JCPS meal program is operated through the School Nutrition Program, directed by Laura Cabe. The bus transportation component is operated by Transportation Director, Josh Francis. Volunteer staffing and meal delivery for non-bus riders is being coordinated by Ashley Taylor. Volunteer teams are a combination of JCPS teachers and staff, as well as supportive members of the community.

JCPS cafeterias started the program on March 17 when 1,102 total meals were served (551 lunches, 551 breakfasts) said Cabe. The following day the program served 1,822 meals, and on Thursday, the count was 2,926 meals, Friday, the count was 3,468. A combined 4-day total of 9,318 meals have been served across Jackson County.

“While there are a lot of factors involved in the sustainability of a long-term meal delivery program, our hope is to continue this program for the duration of the school closure,” said Cabe.

On the first day of the meal program, Blue Ridge School served 89 lunches and 89 breakfast meals. Of this, 23 of each meal type were delivered to individual homes by BRS staff and volunteers.

“There have been at least 5-6 volunteers on the Blue Ridge team each day, in additional to various school staff who are contributing to make this effort successful for our students,” said Taylor.

Ashley Steinel is busy in the Blue Ridge School cafeteria working to feed hundreds of students a day. Photo by Kristy McCall

Cabe said the program has three goals.

“During this challenging time, JCPS has three core concerns: 1- feeding our students; 2- monitoring student wellness; and 3- continuing student learning,” she said.

JCPS Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Elliott said the meal programs organizers have really stepped it up during these challenging times.

“I want to commend Laura Cabe, school nutrition Director; Ashely Taylor the student support services assistant and Josh Francis Director of Transportation,” said JCPS Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Elliott. “They have worked night and day to plan, coordinate and implement the program alongside many many staff and community volunteers. We are so proud if this work. The yellow buses are not just delivering food; they are delivering hope, smiles, caring conversations, and love.”

Macon County Schools

Macon County Schools are dishing out the same treatment on their end serving breakfasts and lunches to students through an extension of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which allows MCS to serve meals in times of natural disaster and emergencies, said MC School Nutrition Director David Lightner. 

MCS is preparing and distributing meals for 5 schools: Franklin High, South Macon Elementary, Mountain View Intermediate, Highlands, and Nantahala. 

Highlands School cafeteria crews are busy packing lunches to be ready for delivery to hundreds of students in Macon County. Thursday’s menu, hot dogs and sweet potatoes.

Meals are available at no cost to any individual who is 18 or younger and any person 19 or older who has a mental or physical disability (as determined by a State or local educational agency) and who participates during the school year in a public or private non-profit school program (established for the mentally or physically disabled). 

We are currently allowing adults to pick up meals for students at the sites, and we are currently running our regular bus routes to deliver food through a waiver that is allowing non-congregate meal service,” said Lightner. “These meals will be funded through federal reimbursement we receive through the SFSP.  We base our number of meals to prepare on the previous day’s numbers. We are prepared to continue to deliver meals this way as long as the service is needed and funded”

From March 19-23, MCS has served 7120 breakfasts and 7120 lunches for a total of 14,240 meals to students in Macon County, including over 800 meals in the Highlands area as of March 25. 

“We could not be providing this service without the strong team effort we have been experiencing,” said Lightner.

Last week Highlands teachers rode along on a delivery to let their students know how much they miss them and give them course materials to work on at home.

Highlands School teachers ride along on a food and class materials delivery on Thursday to let the students know how much they are missed. From left are teachers Cindy Reed, Francie Jetter, Kristin Huneycutt, Margie Potts, and the boss behind the wheel is Melanie Miller.

“All of the teachers at Highlands School have really missed our students,” said Highlands Third-grade teacher Kristin Huneycutt. “We loved being able to see them.”

Highlands School Principal Brian Jetter said he’s proud of his staff.

“They’re doing a great job,” said Jetter.”There are days they make over a hundred meals. That’s a large portion of our students and their families, so they’re doing a great job.”

Highlands students were delighted to see their teachers during a meal and class materials delivery on Thursday.

Pictured at the top of the article is a Highlands student waiving to teachers who rode along to deliver meals and course materials to students during the closure.

Photos by Kristy McCall and Brian O’Shea
Article by Brian O’Shea
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