Gaston County school system feeding program helps students
Cherryville Elementary Principal Shawn Hubers talks with bus driver Holly Gidney, who has children at his school, as she came by Tuesday to the Grab and Go meal site. With Mr. Hubers is CHS cafeteria manager Jill Brackett and Darla Stone. (photo by MEP/The Eagle)
by MICHAEL E. POWELL
Gaston County Schools Chief Communication’s Officer Todd Hagans said in a media release last week they have begun their “Grab and Go” meal program. The program officially began on Tuesday, March 17, and is slated to run through Friday, March 27.
Mr. Hagans noted this service offers a nutritious meal for children while schools are closed because of concerns related to the coronavirus.
The meals are distributed at the following 11 county school’s locations: Bessemer City High School, 119 Yellow Jacket Ln., Bessemer City; Carr Elementary School, 307 South Pine St., Dallas; Cherryville Elementary School, 700 East Academy St., Cherryville; Erwin Community Center, 913 North Pryor St., Gastonia;
Grier Middle School, 1622 East Garrison Blvd., Gastonia; Kiser Elementary School, 311 East College St., Stanley; North Belmont Elementary School, 210 School St., Belmont; Robinson Elementary School, 3122 Union Rd., Gastonia; Tabernacle Baptist Church, 519 West 19th Ave., Gastonia; Warlick Academy, 1316 Spencer Mountain Rd., Gastonia; and Woodhill Elementary School, 1027 Woodhill Dr., Gastonia.
Hagans said at each of the locations, distribution takes place on the following remaining days from 10:30 a.m., until 12 noon: Wednesday, March 18; Thursday, March 19; Friday, March 20; Monday, March 23; Tuesday, March 24; Wednesday, March 25; Thursday, March 26; and Friday, March 27.
Hagans said the “grab and go” meal service work much like their summertime feeding program, adding, “It is
intended to help families who depend on our School Nutrition program for meals.”
He continued, “When you arrive at the meal pickup location that is most convenient for you, look for the
school bus in the front parking lot; go to the school bus and ask for a meal. The meal will be packaged in a bag and is provided to children (age 18 and younger) free-of-charge.”
Also, Hagans said you should plan to take the meal with you as there will not be a place to eat the meal on-site. He also noted that parents may pick up a meal at any of the 11 locations, regardless of where you live or attend
Gaston County School Nutrition Director Angela Calamia, MS, RD, LDN, SNS, said, “On the first day, March 17, we served 1,475 lunches and provided 1,475 bagged breakfasts for the following day (Wednesday).
“We will use this as a gauge; however, we are anticipating an increase in numbers as more families become aware of this program and as the need may grow.”
As for plans to continue the program should the government (state and national) see fit to lengthen any quarantines or closures, Ms. Calamia noted, “Yes, we plan to continue the program as long as the County, state and/or government wills it and to the extent that is safe for us to do so. How long the program continues will be up to the people that know a lot more than I do.”
She also said the listed sites were chosen so that they can provide access to as much of the community as possible.
For students who may have disabilities, she noted that plans, or steps, are taken to make sure they get meals if a parent/guardian can’t get to the meal locations.
Said Ms. Calamia, “We have had a lot of volunteers come to the sites to pick up meals for anyone who cannot leave or that needs assistance.”
Gaston County School officials know this pandemic is tough on everybody involved on all levels, and is a “first” for them all.
Regarding the great spirit and resourcefulness of her staff and employees, as well as all Gaston County School staff and employees, Ms. Calamia said, “I am constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the dedication and determination of the staff in the School Nutrition department.
“We are all anxious and worried about the current situation, yet they come to work ready and willing to do anything asked of them. They stay focused on our common goal of feeding as many hungry children as we can.
“We are doing our very best to stay healthy so that we can continue to provide this much-needed service to the community.
“I am both proud and honored to lead this wonderful team and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart!”
Mr. Hagans said he felt the first day went well, adding that as word spreads, it will grow.
“We want people to know about this program. That’s what is important. Asa for extending it, we will have to see how this initial phase goes. This has been a team effort among our departments to make this happen for our students.”
He noted the planning for this began Friday a week ago, and that was a good thing, he said, as they had the plans in place to move forward with the program.
Cherryville Elementary Principal Shawn Hubers said this was the first time ever he has seen this happen, but noted the school system does have a summer feeding program that is similar.
“We want all our students to have a nutritious meal,” he said.
Helping out Cherryville Elementary were CHS’ cafeteria manager Jill Brackett and W. Blaine Beam cafeteria manager Nicole Kaler. Also helping them hand out meals were Jamia Deaton, from Pleasant Ridge Elementary, and school bus driver, Darla Stone.
Mr. Hubers noted his school was chosen as a feeding spot primarily because it is centrally located among the four Cherryville schools.
“I tried to give them a good location,” said Mr. Hubers, adding that his location for the big yellow school bus with the food, was almost like a drive-through site.
The Gaston County Police Department had officers stationed at the sites in order to make sure traffic flowed smoothly.
“I think the county is trying to be helpful in order to make sure there is continued communication between the teachers, students, school system, and everyone involved,” he said.
Over in Bessemer City at BCHS, cafeteria manager Allison Adams and the ladies helping her fed on that first day, 165 students on Wednesday, and fed over 130 the first day (Tuesday).
Helping Mrs. Adams was Krista Phillips, of Bessemer Central; volunteers Rosalyn Adams and Susan Powell, of BCHS cafeteria, and Costner school bus driver, Doris Scott.
Krista said when they got to BCHS on Tuesday, there were already some parents and kids there waiting on them.
Mrs. Adams noted the activity, so far as traffic coming by for the meals, had been, “pretty steady.”
Officer R. Robinson, of the GCPD, noted some of their school resource officers were being used to supplement patrol at the “Grab and Go” locations as long as they were needed.
If you have a question about our “grab and go” meal program, call (704) 836-9110.