Whitesburg KY
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Students still got meals despite school’s closing

When school is closed because of illness, students who depend daily on a lunchroom meal aren’t usually served one by school staff. Letcher County Public Schools Supt. Anna Craft worried about students being hungry on the recent days school was closed.

Craft decided to pilot a program to feed students when school is canceled because of a low attendance rate caused by flulike symptoms.

On Nov. 2, food service staff along with other employees packed sacks including breakfast and lunch items and delivered them to students of Beckham Bates Elementary School.

The Colson school was one of four schools that had been closed since Oct. 28 because its attendance rate dipped below 80 percent.

Cora Sturgill, director of food services, said BBES was chosen as the school for the pilot program because it was close and only required three buses to complete the routes.

At least 58 percent of the 216 students enrolled at BBES came out of their houses Monday to get food. Thirty high school students who live along the BBES bus route were given meals and 15 extra meals were given to younger children not enrolled in school.

“We fed all students regardless of their income,” said Craft.

Sturgill said she was surprised by how many students were given meals because the last-minute delivery was not highly publicized. School staff called as many parents as they could to let them know what time the bus would be making stops in the Colson area.

Rick Warf, principal of BBES, said of all the parents he contacted only one said they didn’t need any food.

“Everyone else was glad to take them. It worked really well,” said Warf.

Sturgill said the bus driver would honk as he drove by houses and children would come running outside.

“Some came out in pajamas,” said Sturgill. “Some were outside playing. I love the idea of being able to feed those kids when school is out.”

Each student received a breakfast of cereal, Pop- Tarts, juice and a lunch including a ham sandwich, fruit, a bag of chips and milk.

“I think the kids enjoyed the meals they got,” said Sturgill. “They were appreciative.”

Craft said instructional packets were also handed out with the sack lunches to try to keep the educational processes going in the county.

“It’s a way to keep our kids actively engaged in something and to feed them, too,” said Craft.

Craft also said the event served as a way for staff to meet with students and parents.

“It was a good time for them to visit with the families,” said Craft.

Craft said many students participate in The Backpack Program, where students leave school on Fridays with food for the weekend and books to read. Craft was worried that since school was not in session on Oct. 30 some students didn’t get their backpacks filled with food.

Craft said the trial run on Monday went so well she is going to try to offer food to students at any school that is closed in the future because of illness.

Craft said the program, which she thinks is the first of its kind, is for anyone needing assistance including “those families who are experiencing economic hardships for no fault of their own whether they are laid off or a single mother needing help getting through the month.”

Sturgill said this food program will work similarly to the Seamless Summer Feeding Program where students are fed when school is out in the summer.

Of 3,326 students enrolled in the Letcher County Public Schools, 69 percent of those meet free or reduced lunch eligibility.

“Sometimes when they come back to school on Monday they seem hungry,” said Sturgill. “The people in the cafeterias can tell you that they are hungry. Our county is not a lot different from other counties.”

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