R-2 staff prepares, distributes meals to 446 students between OHS, GES collection points

By Dave Marner, Managing Editor
Posted 3/25/20

The first full week of the coronavirus shutdown of local schools began Monday with Gasconade County R-2 School District staff and administrators distributing a week’s worth of breakfasts and …

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R-2 staff prepares, distributes meals to 446 students between OHS, GES collection points

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The first full week of the coronavirus shutdown of local schools began Monday with Gasconade County R-2 School District staff and administrators distributing a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches for 446 students in the Owensville, Rosebud, Gerald and surrounding communities.

“I’m just kind of overwhelmed by this,” said Lori Angell, director of nutritional services for the district, about 30 minutes into the distribution at the high school which took an hour and 10 minutes to complete on a cloud, 45-degree day. “I don’t know what to think about this.”

Then, with a laugh, she added, “I’m getting too old for this.”

Food service staff began preparing a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches at 6 a.m. and worked right up until the distribution began at 11 a.m. — several members of the crew at the high school were finishing bagging up celery sticks and carrots until about 11:30 a.m.

“It was very, very much a team effort,” said Angell as they began handing out food bags right at the top of the hour. “Very much a team effort. I think we did pretty good for 10 people over five hours.”

By 12:10 p.m., district staff had distributed food stocks from the high school to feed 305 children for five days. Students who qualify for the backpack food program through the Helping Hands Outreach Center also received their supply of “weekend” snacks and food stocks at the same time. HHOC delivered 65 of their packages to the school for distribution along with the school’s supply of food stocks.

A similar distribution system was in place at Gerald Elementary School where 141 students received the bags of food.

Each child received four breakfasts and five lunches for this week’s distribution. The program will continue again on Monday, March 30.

Breakfasts included cereal and milk and a fruit. Lunches included two meat sandwiches, fixings for two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and one prepackaged “lunchable” container. The lunch meals also included an assortment of cookie packs, fresh vegetables sticks, fresh fruits, fruit snacks such as dried cranberries, and applesauce cups.

“That was exciting. In general,” said Casey Fisher, the district’s technology director following the 70-minute distribution period.

“It has been exciting. It has been good,” added Angell.

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner helped hand out food bags as Dr. Scott Davidson, principal at Owensville Elementary School, and Kris Altemeyer, principal at the high school, collected paper slips indicating how many children each car’s driver was picking food up for on Monday.

The distribution was being repeated at Gerald Elementary School where Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy, assistant superintendent, was helping Jennifer Hall, principal at GES, and the staff there hand out meals for 141 students.

Parents of students under the age of 18 may still enroll their children in the meals program through the district’s website.

Students do not need to be on the district’s list for free and reduced meals to qualify for the program. The district will receive federal reimbursement from the Division of Health and Senior Services. Garner said the reimbursement is similar to the funding for meals served during a district’s summer school program.

Garner said the district’s decision to have two central distribution points was based largely on the size of the school’s boundary area. “Some people are trying buses for delivery. Some are setting up multiple drop locations. We’re 354 square miles,” said Garner. “We’ll reevaluate. Did that work?”

Beside a brief period early where traffic was backed up out nearly onto the highway, the event proceeded fairly smoothly.

“We’re flying by the seat of our pants,” Angell said. “The employees are doing a great job. People are stepping up and doing a great job.”

The district had 517 children registered for the meal program including 385 scheduled to receive services at the high school and 132 in Gerald. The distribution at OHS finished with just over 300 while the GES total was slightly higher than expected.

Planning was already underway for the next round of distribution as staff members had pizza delivered afterward.

“We’re trying to mix it up a little bit,” said Angell of their plans for next week. She said they plan to use up their inventory of food stocks and order more for the coming distributions.

Chips, whole-grain cooks and rice krispie treats were among the snack items being provided. “Kind of whatever we’ve got here,” she said of the first distribution.

She said they supplemented the in-stock items with special orders for more whole-grain breads and vegetables. Each student will also receive nine cartons of milk. There was a mix of strawberry, chocolate and regular milk in bags observed at the distribution.

Parents may still register their children through the district’s website at dutchmen.us.

“We had enough food prepared for both sites,” said Garner on Tuesday. “We’re encouraging those who could make this one to sign up by going to our website so we have enough food bags prepared for Monday.”

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