Free Food: Kingman schools make sure kids are fed during pandemic
KINGMAN – Dennie Hedges faces an issue that many other Kingman-area families are dealing with during the coronavirus pandemic - how do I feed my children while they aren’t in school?
The solution isn’t simple, but Kingman Unified School District, in partnership with Chartwells Schools Dining Services, has gone to great lengths to provide children and teens with free breakfast and lunch during these dire times.
“It’s worry-free,” Hedges said. “Having to school them at home, we have to worry about their breakfasts and lunches. It’s difficult, so this is pretty amazing. We’re definitely going to be here every day. And we live right up the street, so it’s perfect.”
Hedges wasn’t the only parent taking advantage of free meals for any child or teen under 18 years old. She was joined by a number of other families Tuesday during the 1-3 p.m. pick-up period at Kingman Middle School, 1969 Detroit Ave.
The service runs Mondays through Fridays and will remain in effect until students return to class.
“It’s indefinite,” said KUSD Superintendent Gretchen Dorner. “We will continue to provide meals as long as schools are closed into the future for all kids in Kingman. If school resumes, obviously we would just return to our normal food service.”
Until then, the meals are available free of charge and no enrollment is necessary. And for those interested in what food is provided, Chartwells employee Terri Staschak said each meal has five components – milk, meat or meat alternative, grain, fruit and vegetables. And each item is portioned by ounces.
“Each day we try to make something different, especially during this time,” Staschak said of the 1-3 p.m. pick-up window on Tuesday, March 24. “Today we served corn dogs, carrots, oranges and milk, and cereal, milk and juice for breakfast. Tomorrow we’ll change and have something along the same lines with those components.”
There is also lots of work behind the scenes. Chartwells workers aren’t just handing out the meals, as they also have a large crew which works in shifts preparing the meals.
“Right now we’re making around 1,000 breakfasts and 1,000 lunches every day,” Staschak said. “Hopefully we can go through that and if we need to make more, we would do that. We just want to see the kids be able to eat.”
And parents are thankful they have the ability to feed their children during the pandemic. “It’s helpful,” Ezekiel Lozano said. “We’re just trying to stay away from all the stuff that’s going on right now. We want to make sure nothing bad is going to happen. We’re trying to stay healthy, stay safe. That’s all.”
That is the case for many families and Staschak said she is thankful to still be working during a time when many are stuck at home. She also added that it’s a great pleasure to support the community with free meals.
“The kids think it is fun because it’s almost like opening a present,” Staschak said. “When they’re in school, they can see what it is. But here, since we have the meals in brown bags, they’re not really sure what they’re getting. So when they open it, they’re like ‘Ohhh’ and they get excited about some of the items that we’re serving them.”
Chartwells employee Sharra Green feels the same happiness when she hands out meals that bring a smile to someone’s face.
“It’s rewarding,” Green said. “It makes you feel really good that you’re doing something for the community and giving back to them. It’s not only helping those who really need it, but it’s just helping everybody in general. It’s something that we want to do.”
More information on KUSD’s free meal service is available at https://www.kusd.org/2020/03/17/kusd-school-closure-meal-service.