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FEATURE - "Delivering kindness and nutrition to local students"

BOX ELDER COUNTY – By Cari Doutre – March 19, 2020

The hallways and classrooms in all of Box Elder School District’s facilities are eerily quiet.

Gone is the sound of children laughing and the atmosphere of learning after all of Utah public schools have been dismissed for two weeks starting March 16, to help prevent COVID-19, or coronavirus, from spreading.

But the schools aren’t empty. Teachers, administrators and staff are all still there, developing online learning curriculums for students. They’ve also taken on a new responsibility - helping prepare meals for students.

And they aren’t the only ones pitching in to help in any way possible.

There might not be students eating meals in school cafeterias right now, but food and nutrition staff members are still working hard to prepare meals. Thousands of meals in a grab and go form are being prepared by cooks and staff members in that department every day. Story continues below...

Photo courtesy of Bear River Middle School

Those meals are then organized with the help of teachers, principals, counselors, aides and staff to be delivered to students on buses. All of this was under the direction of Candace Parr, Nutrition Specialist for Box Elder School District.

The change also meant something new and challenging for the cooks that prepare student meals every day. It was a challenge they were ready to accept for the students they love and serve every day.

Bear River Middle School’s kitchen manager Kathleen Hess recalled the first day’s process.

Starting at 6 a.m., they began setting up an assembly lines to fill the bags full of food. There were four total lines at Bear River Middle School.

“This is where the principals and teachers and aides were helping. Everyone was willing and eager to help,” Hess said.

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Photo courtesy of Bear River Middle School

Hess did admit, she did feel a little bit of stress.

“I won’t lie. There was a little stress on my part, but everyone was patient with each other and worked well together,” she added.

In total, Bear River Middle School made 867 lunches and 867 breakfast grab and go bags.

Then it was time to deliver the meals at 7 a.m. for the breakfast route. Story continues below...

Photo courtesy of Bear River Middle School
“In the pouring rain, meals were delivered by the bus staff. It was really a sight to see everyone working together to make this happen,” Hess said.

At Bear River High and Alice C. Harris Intermediate schools, the same was done there – preparing the cold grab and go bags. At elementary schools, hot meals were prepared and handed out to students at those locations.

“Our awesome lunch staff works tirelessly to make sure all the kids in our district area, ages 0 to 18, have both breakfast and lunch. This is no small feat because we live in the biggest and most spread out county in the state,” said Julie Scothern, a driver with Box Elder School District.

Drivers in Box Elder School District’s transportation department were given an important role in providing meals to students during the COVID-19 shutdown. Story continues below...

Buses line up at Bear River High to pick up meals. Photo courtesy of Bear River Middle School

Driving their normal school routes every day, drivers deliver breakfast and lunch to every bus stop Monday through Friday until March 27. Two stops a day for all students in the school district.

“Being a bus driver is a job where we wear many hats, so I never would have imagined that being a bus driver would mean using my bus to deliver meals to students,” said Mailee Forrest, a driver with Box Elder School District.
“I’m grateful that I could serve my students today and deliver breakfast and lunch to each stop,” she added. “It was a different and somewhat challenging, but in the end a good experience.”

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Courtesy photo

They’ve got company too. Each bus has aides or helpers from every part of the school district that will take students’ meal choice and put together a grab and go bag for them. There’s plenty of options for students to choose from.

“They were so excited to come to the bus to get them, especially the little ones,” Scothern said. “It was fun to see the faces of all the families we delivered to and to be able to talk to some of them normally don't get to. We finished the run and returned the boxes and the trays to the high school so the awesome lunch workers could refill them.” Story continues below...

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Wednesday, March 18, was the first delivery and parents around the district expressed their gratitude for this resource.

“Some parents told us ‘we kind of feel guilty because we don't need this’ but we told them not to feel guilty we want to make sure every child is fed during this crisis. Other moms had tears and were so grateful we were all willing to do this,” Scothern shared.

Students don’t have to wait at a bus stop to grab breakfast or lunch. Every elementary school will give out the same grab and go bags at their location according to regularly scheduled times. Story continues below...

North Park Elementary - Photo courtesy of Teriann Hanks

North Park Elementary - Photo courtesy of Teriann Hanks

Buses will also deliver meals to local parks. Those locations are listed below.

It’s all safe and social distancing measures are in place. More importantly though, students who rely on school breakfast and lunch for daily meals won’t be left hungry.

“It was a good feeling to see so many grateful people, and so many kids at each stop and to know there were a lot of full bellies today,” Scothern said.

Box Elder School District announced that breakfast and lunch will still be available to all students at no cost, but with some guidelines:

- Beginning on Wednesday, March 18, breakfast and lunches will be served at all elementary schools only during regularly scheduled times for each school.

- Meals will be available in a “grab and go” bag.

- Students will need to pick up their own meals.

- Parents or others can’t pick up meals for them and deliver them to students.

- Students do not need to go to the school they are enrolled in to pick up meals.

- For families with students in multiple schools, they only need to go to one school.

- Bus drivers will be delivering breakfast and cold lunches on regular K-12 grades bus routes throughout the district.

- Breakfast will be delivered at bus stops between 7:30 to 8:30 a.m.

- Lunch will be delivered between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Monday through Friday.

- Additional bus stops are available at the following locations towards the end of the delivery times for those students that are not close to a bus stop or a school:

Tremonton area:

Shuman Park (library park): 210 N. Tremont St., Tremonton

Meadow Park: 700 W. 700 S., Tremonton

Garland City Park: 100 N. 600 E., Garland

- Children must be present to receive their meals. There will be no adult meals available.

- Meals will not be served during spring break (March 30 – April 3).



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