Crawford AuSable School District strives to get meals to children in the area during pandemic
Tue, 06/02/2020 - 12:10pm caleb
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The Crawford AuSable School District has been pumping out hundreds of meals every day to all children within its jurisdiction – regardless if they are enrolled in school – as the COVID-19 pandemic has clenched its claws into the community.
On March 12, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the mandatory closing of all schools in Michigan due to the coronavirus, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly respiratory disease.
In response, Crawford AuSable Schools Superintendent Justin Gluesing met with the school’s food service team and worked out a plan to continue to feed the children in the district.
Beginning March 16, the Crawford AuSable School District provided packaged free grab and go breakfast and lunch meals at the Grayling Elementary School, Beaver Creek Township Hall, Frederic Township Hall, Lovells Township Hall, and Maple Forest Township Hall. The Grayling Middle School was added as a meal distribution site on April 1.
The program is being paid for through the Michigan Department of Education through federal funds coming from the Unanticipated School Closure program.
The food is not just for students who receive free or reduced lunch and breakfast when school is in session.
Meals are going to all children 18 and under
“It’s free for everybody,” said Kim Schmidt, the business manager and food services manager for the Crawford AuSable School District.
All food services staff have remained on the school district’s payroll as well as paraprofessionals and bus drivers who help package and deliver the meals.
The school district is providing meals seven days a week by serving two days’ worth on Mondays and Wednesdays, and three days’ worth on Fridays.
Bus drivers take the meals to the township halls in outlying areas of the county. Paraprofessionals deliver meals directly to families who cannot get to the distribution sites.
School leaders were focused on providing nutritious meals before schools were closed for the rest of school year and virtual learning program was implemented.
“That was a concern of all school districts,” Schmidt said. “Now that we’re not in session, we’re not able to feed the kids and we always make sure kids that need the food have access to the food.”
The busses remain on site at the distribution sites at the township halls on delivery days. Hours for distribution at the Grayling Elementary School and Grayling Middle School are from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“They just come up and grab the food and go,” Schmidt said.
On the first day, the school district served 205 children. The numbers increased through March as parents learned about the program. In April, the school district averaged getting 844 meals a day to children.
The highest day of service was April 24, when the school district served 1,049 children.
“With the number of students we are feeding, it’s going very well, and we’re glad we’re able to feed that many students,” Schmidt said. “We feel that the program is certainly beneficial.”
Meals will continue to be delivered through Friday, June 26. That is the last day school will be in session for the Grayling Elementary School’s Extended Learning Year program. Funding from the Unanticipated School Closure program also ends on that day.
Jerremey Carr said he appreciated having the meals available for his son, Brody Carr, who is a fifth grader at the Grayling Middle School.
“It’s huge for myself and it’s huge for the community,” Carr said. “I love that the school is doing it. Just knowing that we have a place to go get food, if we need it, and to know that they’re extending it to all students, it’s definitely one of the good examples that our school district is stepping up for our community and making sure that our kids are being taken care of through this tough time.”
Gluesing commended school staff and families for working through these unprecedented times as their homes have been turned into classrooms as well as places to get nutritious food.
“We are proud of our employees who have worked very hard to feed the children in our area during this difficult time,” Gluesing said.
The funding used for the program is the same used to fund the school’s summer meal program.
The regulations for that program have been different in the past, because they require children and families to come to one of the school district buildings to eat on site.
“We usually run a small school food service program, but very few people show up,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said the summer meal program is slated to be run through July, but how that will be implemented due to the pandemic is still to be determined.
A notice will be placed in the Crawford County Avalanche once the regulations are released.
“They’re changing those rules this summer, and it’s still kind of a work in progress,” Schmidt said.