One of the main issues that were raised by the temporary closure of public schools throughout the state of Oregon is the meal support provided to many students.
Angie Gorman, the director of nutrition services for Lebanon Community Schools, said on a typical day, the district serves breakfast to about 60% of the students and nearly that same number for lunch.
Losing access to those meals would be a severe blow to many families, especially at a time when layoffs and reduced working hours are becoming common due to the economic impact of COVID-19.
The school district responded to the need by opening a food distribution center at Lebanon High School starting on Monday, March 16. During its first week of operation, the district provided more than 2,500 total meals to students.
“Each day we have more than we did the day before,” Gorman said. “Everybody that has come through has been so nice and so thankful and grateful for their meals.”
Early in the week, Gorman had about three staff members assisting her. By the end of the week, with the increased demand, she was calling on about a dozen staff members and volunteers to support the operation.
“They’re the real heroes of this. They’re working really hard getting food ready and prepped,” Gorman said, adding that staff members start arriving each day at 6 a.m. to prepare the meals.
So far, they have served egg salad sandwiches, turkey and cheese wraps, taco salad, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cold pizza. They have focused on using the perishable items that were on hand.
“We are first using the fruits and vegetables that were in the kitchens. We’re using all those things up so we’re being really flexible right now using the things available to us,” said Gorman, who has led the nutrition services department for the past seven years.
While this situation is unprecedented, Gorman said the work isn’t too different from the support they provide to summer school programs.
“Our challenge here is that we just don’t know how many are going to come and take advantage of the service,” Gorman said.
Several students from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, Northwest (COMP-NW) are volunteering to support the meal service. Their studies have also been disrupted by the new coronavirus as the school has moved to online-only classes.
“We have our student government association and they put out the word for volunteers, things we can do around the community to help out, if we can,” said Bryce Civic, a second-year student at COMP-NW. “I thought it would be a good thing to come help out the community and just be a presence. It is a really uncertain time and we definitely need people to help each other right now.”
The meal program began at Lebanon High School, but in its second week expanded to include Green Acres, Hamilton Creek and Lacomb.
Under the current schedule, families can pick up meals at Lebanon High School and Green Acres between 9 and 11 a.m., Monday through Friday. Both breakfast and lunch are picked up at the same time.
Meals can also be picked up at Hamilton Creek School from 9:30 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Staff members will also travel to various locations in that area to deliver meals. These stops are:
• 9:30 a.m. - Old Waterloo School at 8th and Klum Street.
• 9:40 a.m. – Fire Station 35, 30797 Berlin Road.
• 10:05 a.m. - Turning Point Church, 30337 Fairview Road.
• 10:25 a.m. - Sodaville City Hall, 30723 Sodaville Road.
There is a similar program in Lacomb. Meals can be picked up at Lacomb School from 9:30 to 10 a.m. there will also be stops at:
• 9:25 a.m. - Providence Vineyard Christian Church, 35787 Richardson Gap Road.
• 9:55 a.m. – The pullout at the intersection of Brewster Road and Lacomb Drive.
In addition, Valley Life Church is supporting the weekly backpack program which provides food support for students.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam are also offering weekend food support. Brown bag to-go lunches can be picked up at both the Lebanon and Sweet Home clubs from 11:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The bags also include a breakfast item.
In addition, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam are supporting first responders and health care workers who are in need of emergency child care services. For more information on those services, call 541-258-7105.
The Lebanon Community Schools meal support programs are open to all children up to 18 years of age, even those who are not enrolled in Lebanon Community Schools. Children must be present to pick up meals.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.