Robert Frank said every little bit helps as he cuts expenses after being furloughed from his job at a Durango salon. He cycled to Needham Elementary with his daughter, Indie Snead, 8, on Thursday to pick up a bagged lunch and breakfast.
“I’m trying to stop the bleeding wherever I can, and if Indie has what she needs, that’s perfect,” he said.
Kelly Newman, who has to be home with her six kids now that school is out of session, said, “It’s a blessing. It really cuts down with the grocery bills.”
On Wednesday, Durango School District 9-R’s Food and Nutrition Department began cooking, preparing and distributing bagged breakfasts and lunches that are made available to all children within the school district boundaries, regardless of whether they are 9-R students.
About 100 bagged breakfasts and lunches were picked up Wednesday at Needham, and on Thursday about 140 were distributed, said Christy Martinez, Needham cafeteria manager.
Backpacks prepared for FridayAbout 300 backpacks with nonperishables are prepared to give to students on Friday along with the bagged meals to hold families over until Tuesday, Martinez said. The backpacks are a regular 9-R program it offers with its partner, Manna soup kitchen.
Bagged lunches will not be provided Monday, a professional development day at 9-R, but they will resume Tuesday and will extend through the duration of school closures required to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kristyn Winn, who usually works at the Durango High School cafeteria was at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary on Wednesday. She said they gave out all 50 lunches they had prepared for distribution at the school. In addition, more lunches went out to remote areas in southwest La Plata County from the kitchen at Fort Lewis Mesa.
Remote bus deliveries9-R is using buses to set up remote distribution points throughout the county. The bus distribution points will change – some being added and some dropped after 9-R gets more clarity on where they are needed, 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger said.
A bus distribution point has been added in Three Springs, and other bus stops that aren’t proving as popular may be eliminated, he said.
“To start with this week, the majority of our families have wanted to go to their school. But I think the bus stops will become a more popular location as time draws on,” he said.
9-R is asking parents with children old enough to eat regular food to fill out a form on its website so cafeterias will know how many meals to prepare. Formula for infants is not being provided.
Also, parents can call 9-R at 259-1630, ext. 2041, to make their requests for meal pickups for the upcoming week. Parents should call with their meal requests no later than 2 p.m. Friday before the following week.
Give 9-R a heads upKrista Grand, 9-R coordinator of food and nutrition, said it’s particularly important for parents to fill out the webpage form or call to request the number of meals they will need to prevent sites from running out of meals.
Some extra meals will be sent to all the remote bus stops, but the best place for parents to pick up meals if they have forgotten to make their requests ahead of time is at the drive-thru locations set up at all 9-R elementary schools, where cafeterias can always make more meals.
Winn said Thursday’s lunch – chicken tenders and mashed potatoes – is one of the most popular. Friday’s lunch – pizza and a side salad – also is a favorite.
“We serve pizza on Fridays, and the kids really like it, and they expect that, so we’re trying to keep our meals as similar to what we serve at school,” Grand said.
Breakfasts range from egg and cheese on a bagel to pumpkin, banana and zucchini bread, oatmeal and an apple or fruit pastry. All meals, which meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional standards, come with a half pint of milk or chocolate milk.
Hot meals will be a featureThe school district has purchased to-go tins with lids to serve hot meals, and hot meals will be a feature of the lunches as long as the Food and Nutrition Department can swing it, Grand said.
Some parents have suggested returning the tins and plastic bags, which have been donated by City Market and Albertsons, but that’s impossible given the sanitary procedures the to-go meal operation must follow given the COVID-19 pandemic.
9-R suggests recycling whatever to-go materials possible and throwing away the rest.
All 30 employees of the Food and Nutrition Department are working on the portable meals project either cooking, bagging, distributing or communicating with parents to dial in the right number meals to prepare, Grand said. Workers are following practices like social distancing and using gloves based on recommendations from San Juan Basin Public Health.
Travel to pick up meals is OKDuring the stay-at-home order, Gov. Jared Polis has allowed for necessary travel by parents to pick up the meals and for school cafeteria workers to travel to their jobs to get out the meals.
“It’s an unusual time, and we feel like it’s a great service for any of our families to alleviate one more thing from their list of to-dos,” Snowberger said.
“We’ve got a lot of parents who are out of work. And, you know, taking advantage of this is also an opportunity to give kids something that they’re expecting from school,” he said. “I think our kids are lacking that connection with something that, for the most part, they look forward to, and so coming to school to get their lunches is a little piece of normalcy.”
‘I’d have eaten it’Jeff Schmerker, whose son, Cooper, 8, picked up his chicken tenders and breakfast pastry on his scooter, said he was impressed with Thursday’s meal.
“Lunch today was great. I’d have eaten it,” he said.
Cooper, a Needham second grader, said he finished all of Wednesday’s lunch – a turkey sandwich, chips, vegetable sticks and milk.
But he admits he misses PE and art at school.