Lancaster schools are providing meals for children during the COVID-19 crisis

From left are food service team members (front row) Stephanie Carter and Tawanda Betts; (next row) Diane Smith and Renee Lee.

KILMARNOCK—Following the governor’s announcement suspending all public schools, Lancaster County Public Schools began delivering two daily meals to children under the age of 18 who depend on schools for healthy food.

Right now, the schools are operating delivery vans that are making home deliveries, and staff members are operating food pickup services for nutritious breakfasts and lunches to serve more than 215 families on a daily basis.

As of March 23, over 4,300 meals had been provided. According to superintendent Dan Russell, the schools are working to develop plans to continue student learning opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis and recognize the critical importance of providing food to children in the community.

“Our entire staff, including principals, teachers, administrative and operations personnel, and food service staff members understand the importance of getting healthy food to children in our community during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Russell. “I am so proud of our team for what they are doing for the community.

“I want to assure participating families that we are following all of the recommended safety precautions, including maintaining social distancing among our team members as well as with the families to whom we are making food deliveries. In addition, all team members are wearing appropriate face masks and gloves to protect themselves and the families to whom they are delivering food,” he said. “Our team is 100% dedicated to continuing our services until the COVID-19 crisis is over and our schools are back in session for the 2020-2021 school year.”

The Meals on Wheels team includes 10 food service staff members who prepare nutritious foods at the primary school cafeteria. The delivery team is staffed with several drivers and several food service personnel that physically place food delivery packages at homes around the county.

The team prepared and delivered 1,422 meals during the week of March 23. Now, due to the addition of more program participants, the team expects to deliver over 2,100 meals this week alone. Deliveries include meals that are delivered directly to homes as well as meals that are picked up at the primary and middle schools.

Deliveries to homes are accomplished by drivers operating school vans with the help of food service personnel who physically place the large 18 gallon, plastic, food-filled “totes” on the porches or at the doors of participating families.
The totes enable the team to avoid touching all delivered food in accordance with best practices recommended for the COVID-19 crisis. When a participating family uses their food, they place the empty tote outside their doors for the delivery team to refill during the next delivery. In addition, the program provides individual totes for pickup at both the primary and middle schools on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Each tote is filled with an ample food supply to last until the next scheduled delivery or pickup.

Food service director Stephanie Carter reports that breakfast and lunch deliveries contain nutritious foods comprising the five mandated food groups of meats, vegetables, grains, fruits and milk. A typical breakfast includes a yogurt parfait with strawberries and whole–wheat crackers mixed together, a fruit cup and an 8-once portion of milk. A typical lunch includes whole-grain chicken nuggets, potato wedges, a fruit cup and an 8-once portion of milk. Sometimes fresh salads and sandwiches are provided to participants.

School operation manager John Mann, commenting on the teams’ dedicated efforts said, “All team members, including our food service staff, drivers and individuals making the physical deliveries of totes are pleased to have the opportunity to provide much-needed nutritious breakfasts and lunches for children in our community,” said school operation manager John Mann. “I am tremendously impressed by their willingness to take on this significant responsibility during a time when we really need to keep our children healthy and well.”

The 10 food service team members helping to keep community children healthy and well are food service director Stephanie Carter, Rose Waters, Vanessa Waddy, Tawanda Betts, Renee Lee, Diane Smith, Shawn Ownes Carter, Venora Calame, Mary Barrack and Tracy Tiggle. Two of the drivers delivering meals to homes are Bill Kramer and Jimmy Coates.

“We owe team members a debt of gratitude for their service during these difficult times when many other citizens are able to remain at home and keep their families safe from the risk of infection,” said Russell.

As the number of program participants continues to grow, the team will need to make changes to ongoing operations and procedures as they evolve and streamline their operations. School administrators will announce any such changes on their website.

A recent change to the program was announced just this week by Director of Instruction, Jessica Davis, who indicated that “beginning the week of March 30, all meal pickups and deliveries will transition to two days per week on Mondays and Wednesdays. We will continue to provide all program participants with both breakfasts and lunches for the full 5-day week. As a result of this change, normal Friday deliveries and pickups of totes will now be included as part of the Wednesday delivery and pickup service.”

According to Davis, program services will continue during the spring break period scheduled for the week of April 6-10. A second change announced by Davis is based on revised federal program guidelines stating that children will no longer need to be present during the pickup of meals. As a result of that change, the program will need 48 hours notice if a participating family wishes to change from delivery to pick-up, or vice-versa. This notice will ensure that duplicate meals are not provided to participating children.

“If your family is not receiving meals for any child under the age of 18, you can email your request to be included in the program directly to me at,” said Carter.