Reimagined food service program provides breakfasts/lunches seven days a week for district students coping with food insecurity

food service worker preparing sandwichesMinisink Valley has recently launched its reimagined food service program to be more helpful to families who are dealing with food insecurity, particularly during this pandemic and while students are learning via remote instruction.

Since the beginning of the 2020-21 year, meals are free to all students whether they’re in school or learning remotely.

Now, to better serve students and their families, the district now delivers meals home, including if/when the district is in full remote mode. To do this, a bus fleet of approximately 16 small district buses now delivers breakfasts/lunches daily to any district family who requests it for students age 18 and younger.

Preparing meals to goThe buses drop off the packaged meals in containers that families are asked to leave by their mailboxes or at the end of their driveways.

‘… Nutrition they need to be successful with their academic work and everything else they do.’

On Fridays, deliveries include meals for Saturday and Sunday.

“We felt it was important to take look at all the ways we could better ensure our students have healthy, nutritious meals, if they are in need of them, while learning remotely,” said Patrick Witherow, assistant superintendent for business, who oversees food service at the district. “We hope that being able to bring meals to our students, now including ensuring there’s meals available custodiam preparing meals to go onto busesto them on weekends, those families know how much we value making sure all our students have the nutrition they need to be successful with their academic work and everything else they do.”

Currently, as of Jan. 11, there are 416  breakfasts/lunches being delivered by the Transportation Department each day.  On Fridays, that jumps to 1,248 breakfasts/lunches.   Over the two-week Thanksgiving pause, 9,500 breakfasts/lunches were delivered.

Fresh and home made, every day

The Food Service teams looks to provides a mix of hot/cold food options, although food is always purposely delivered cold with re-heating instructions.

burritos“The ladies in the kitchen make lunch every day,” said Cheryl Bellew, food services director.   “Today, they made homemade lasagna for delivery tomorrow. They’re making beef and cheese burritos for this week. Hot meals have been a part of our food delivery since mid-November. It’s not just a sandwich. But, when we do prepare sandwiches, they’re made using Boar’s Head deli meats. Everything the ladies  make is fresh, homemade, and we try to get the best nutrition into our kids we can. We’re looking to target every ‘like.’”

A typical hot lunch is prepared the day prior to its delivery, and consists of an entrée, vegetable and fruit along with milk and juice, she explained.

A team effort by many district departments

Loading the buses“Our food service team does all the prepping, cooking and bagging,” said Mrs. Bellew. “But it’s a team of about 35 people who make this happen every day. In addition to the support we have from Central Office, we have members of the custodial  and security staff who help us load the buses. We have drivers and monitors who get the meals to home. Transportation works really hard to get all the routes in place. It takes a village and this effort demonstrates that.”

Mrs. Bellew stressed the team’s work continues to be inspired by knowing children who need meals are getting them.

“We know that these kids look forward to a hot lunch at school and we’re Food service worker preparing mealsproviding hot meals  to the students to give them some kind of normalcy,” she added. “That’s part of the ‘fuel for our fire.’ We know there are people out there who truly, truly need this. Besides giving students some normalcy, we know that families are struggling right now. They might need food on the table and they don’t have the means. It’s heartwarming to know we’re helping someone.”

Families who want to be a part of this should complete the meal request survey:  Minisink Valley Remote Instruction Meal Service Request

To see more photos, visit the district’s Facebook page.