Area Students Receive ‘Meals On Wheels’

You could call it “Meals On Wheels” for the younger crowd.

While school buildings were closed during the pandemic, Yankton and area districts were still preparing daily meals for students. For many families, those meals were the main source of their children’s nutrition.

Most schools offered “grab and go” lunch sacks at a single site, but three area districts took a different approach.

Wynot, Nebraska, delivered meals directly to students’ homes regardless of where they lived in the district. The school system plans to continue the delivery service this summer.

Meanwhile, Scotland and Bon Homme delivered meals to the various communities within their districts. The two school systems started offering the daily “shuttle” from the time their buildings were closed to students until the recent end of the school term.

At Wynot, Principal Grant Torpin said his school delivered the meals around the district regardless of location. In that way, families didn’t need to travel into Wynot or make other accommodations for picking up the meals.

“It’s been very surprising how everyone has been stepping up (during the pandemic),” he said. “The lunch program alone has been a huge success. We’ve delivered about 200 meals a day. Our district takes in a number of surrounding farms, and we have families living in the Brooky Bottom area.”

The district offers the delivery of school lunches to all Wynot students and their family members through age 18, according to the school website. The program is free and, rather than end with the school term, the district has committed to continuing the drop-off meals through the summer.

The Wynot meals are not served Mondays to allow the school staff to deep clean the kitchen and to receive the weekly supply ruck.

“Families place their online orders, and our kitchen staff fills those orders,” Torpin said.

When they place their orders, families indicate the number of meals and the children who are receiving the meals, according to the school’s website. Tuesday’s order must be completed by 3 p.m. Monday. The rest of the week’s orders must be completed by 9 a.m. the previous day.

The district has remained dedicated to providing nutritionally balanced hot meals each day, Torpin said. Besides the entrée, all meals include a serving of fruit, vegetable and white milk.

“(Kitchen manager) Janice Koch and her staff have done a great job,” the principal said. “They’re providing meals the kids would normally have received at school.”

Deliveries begin at 11 a.m. daily and use school staff, Torpin said.

“It’s a way for us to provide work for our bus drivers and paraprofessionals,” he said. “The completed meals are placed into boxes, and each driver delivers the meals to the homes. The driver then knocks on the door and just leaves the food.”

The families then come out to retrieve the food after the driver has left, according to the school website.

Two neighboring Bon Homme County school districts used a different format, transporting the meals to communities where the families picked up the deliveries.

In the Scotland school system, meals were delivered to each of the communities within the district, according to Business Manager Fallon Woods.

“We prepared meals in Scotland, and families chose to pick them up in Scotland, Kaylor or Lesterville,” she said.

The Scotland program offered two meals daily for students, Woods said.

“We prepared breakfast and lunch meals for enrolled students of our district in grades PreK-12,” she said. “Families picked up meals for Monday and Tuesday on Monday; Wednesday and Thursday on Wednesday; and Friday meals on Friday.”

In the Bon Homme school system, the district transported meals to the various communities within the district, according to Business Manager Gary Kortan.

“We prepared all meals in Tyndall and distributed them to Tabor and Springfield so each town had a pick-up point while the (Hutterite) colony just continued to feed (their students and staff) as normal,” he said. “I also delivered (meals) to a few students throughout the district if they needed that service.”

Each school attendance center had a designated pickup location — Springfield at the gym doors, Tabor at the school main entrance and Tyndall in the elementary commons entrance.

The school district made deliveries to the attendance centers two days a week, Kortan said. Meals could be picked up from noon-1 p.m.

“We provided two breakfasts and two lunches each pick-up day, or eight meals per week,” he said. “The number per day ranged from 144 to high point of 205.”

Because of updated guidance and eligibility requirements shared by the South Dakota Department of Education, the Bon Homme school district offered free breakfasts and lunches to anyone up to 18 years old.

The Bon Homme program ran for about six weeks, Kortan said.

“We started the program on April 6 and ran it through the end of school year May 21,” he said. “(We) don’t plan on continuing the program in the summer.”

Depending on the nature and length of the pandemic, schools may offer pick-up or delivered meals again in the fall should classes not resume or districts choose remote learning rather than classroom instruction.

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