Oklahoma Families Turn To School Meal Programs To Feed Kids During Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Thursday, May 7th 2020, 9:48 pm

By: Amy Avery

Merisha Abbott picks up to go meals for her children every week at Bristow Public Schools. The mother of three said the meals are a blessing and a very helpful financially.

"I don’t know what we would do without it," Abbott said.

The Abbott kids are among 1,000 Bristow students taking part in the school meal program. On Monday, the district handed out five breakfasts and five lunches, including everything from bread, to cereal, chips and vegetables.

"We thought long and hard about how we were going to do this and make it a success. Our numbers just keep going up," said Child Nutrition Manager Jessica McCullough. "We have parents that call us, give us an address, tell us they can't make it, their car is broke down, so we drive out there and give it to them."

The nutrition staff served about 300 meals a day the first week and now they are preparing more than 10,000 meals every week. Assistant Superintendent Krista Burden reports that's almost triple the number of students they normally help over the summer.

"Our normal free and reduced percentage is about 65 percent. We know that there are some families who have a great need on a regular basis, so this just magnifies everything," Burden said.

Many district employees, including aides, custodians and even bus drivers, like Terry Stubblefield, have stepped up and are helping serve meals.

"I usually try to talk to them, talk to the parents and see how the kids are doing," said Stubblefield.

In Jenks, volunteers are working to prepare 13,000 meals for students. Thea Todd has three Jenks Trojans in her family.

"It's been wonderful, I mean the kids have loved it, they love all the food," Todd said.

Jenks parents are able to pull up to the table and get the meals they need, without even having physical contact with a staff member. The district said after each parent, the table is cleaned before the next car pulls up. Getting a chance to reconnect with students and their families is the best part of the job for Jenks Alternative Center Principal Amie Hardy.

"Some of them have little signs saying, ‘thank you. We appreciate you. We love you. Thanks for what you do.’ It makes my day every day to see the kids and do my part," Hardy said.

"You don't do it for the thanks, you just do it because that’s what you do," said Jenks High School Cafeteria Manager Penny Gise. "We’re a service industry, we are just fortunate enough to be able to service kids and I think that's important. I always want to stay connected to kids."

It's what Oklahomans do, time and again. We come together to make a difference in the life of someone in need.

"A lot of families are kind of hopeless if they're sitting at home," Burden said. "They lost jobs, their kids aren't in school, they can't go anywhere so this is an opportunity where they can come through and even if it's just that moment of seeing people and being provided with quite a bit of food. I think providing a little bit of hope goes a long way."

Fueling kids with hope and a belly full of gratitude.


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