County and city schools feeding hundreds of students through free meal program

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 6:17 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — With students back at school, either virtually or physically in the classroom, both Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have seen a number of families use their free meals program.

“We are serving about 1,500 students on Tuesday evenings. Currently, we expect those numbers to probably increase a little bit,” Andrea Early, executive director of school nutrition for HCPS, said.

Early said they’re also serving about 400 students through the division’s delivery routes on Wednesdays. After more than two weeks of serving families, Early said there have been some slight changes to their distribution.

For instance, staff are delivering meals on Wednesdays through car routes as opposed to bus routes. Also, instead of meal pick up being Tuesday and Thursday, families will only be able to pick up meals on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“We just feel like maybe its more effective to just have parents and staff, and everybody comes out one night a week and receive a whole week’s worth of meals in one trip as oppose to having to come out twice,” Early said.

She said the same quality meals will be given out that families can pick up at any school across the division.

Gerald Lehman, director of food and nutrition services for RCPS, said the county has also had a busy first week back with preparing meals for students.

“Our usual service of meals during a normal school year is 6,000 to 7,000 meals a day,” Lehman said. " On Monday, we served 1,160 breakfasts in school, 1,300 lunches in school and 1,575 take-home meals for Monday Tuesday, and Wednesday."

Lehman said it’s about a third of where they’re at normally this time of year with serving meals, but believes more families will take advantage of the free meal program as the school year continues.

“Because we have theses meals available at all of our schools and they’re available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, we hope that will be an encouragement for more families to receive that.”

He said they’ve received good feedback from families on their meal selections so far this week, and have even had reviews sent into their office.

“I was so happily surprised to see all the wonderful food content in the bags for my four children enrolled in the schools. They are nicely stacked in my refrigerator for tomorrow and Thursday and I look forward to my children eating these nicely prepared meals this week,” a note sent to the school offices on Tuesday read.

Both Early and Lehman hope to feed more children in school later this fall. Each school division will continue its free meal program until the end of this year.

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