First Student employees and Juneau School District food services supervisor Adrianne Schwartz, left, carry student meals off the bus they’re being distributed from near Juneau-Douglas High School:Yadaa.at Kalé, March 16, 2020. The school program is ending Friday, but a United States Department of Agriculture program is expected to begin providing lunches Monday. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire File)

First Student employees and Juneau School District food services supervisor Adrianne Schwartz, left, carry student meals off the bus they’re being distributed from near Juneau-Douglas High School:Yadaa.at Kalé, March 16, 2020. The school program is ending Friday, but a United States Department of Agriculture program is expected to begin providing lunches Monday. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire File)

School year meal program switching to summer mode

They served more than 60,000 meals in two months.

A reinvention of the Juneau School District’s school year meal program will end on Friday as the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Meal Service Program begins on Monday, May 25.

“We feel like it’s pretty seamless,” said Adrianne Schwartz, the JSD’s food service manager. “I want to make sure the needs of the children in our community are met in terms of meals. Typically the school district has provided meals for the summer programs that are operating but this year that’s looking a little different.”

While the school year program provides both breakfast and lunch, the summer program operates under different parameters, Schwartz said.

“The primary change that I’m aware of is that these summer meals will be providing lunch,” Schwartz said. “They will not be providing breakfast. There will be more hot food.”

The lunches will be distributed at four locations, and only require that people show up to collect them, Schwartz said.

“This will be very streamlined as well. My understanding is that they can just stop by the distribution sites, same as with our meals,” Schwartz said. “I think it’s going to be a great program and it’ll make that translation from what we’re doing now to next week seamless.”

End of year progress report

“I feel like the school year meal program operated very well and we were able to transition very quickly with a strong team collaboration effort,” Schwartz said. “We did our best as the rules were changing to expand our program.”

The school year meal program was expanded as coronavirus prevention measures expanded to shuttering physical schools to make sure kids were getting two square meals a day. This adds up fast, Schwartz said.

“By the end of this week, it looks like we’ll have served around 62,000 meals,” Schwartz said. “It’s about 6,000 meals a week. Breakfasts and lunches for 3,000 students a week.”

Many of those 3,000 students were the same people, but it’s still many kids fed by the school district from the program’s rapid implementation on March 16 to its termination on May 22. Schwartz said good teamwork and responsive staff allowed the program to run smoothly for its duration.

“Because we stayed on top of the federal and state mandates we were able to make changes as we needed to,” Schwartz said. “We had a really good partnership team.”

The Juneau School District worked with NANA Management Services, First Student, Sysco, the City and Borough of Juneau and others to prepare, deliver and distribute meals to students. About 70 people were involved every day in getting the food prepared and delivered, Schwartz said.

“All of those entities stepped up to work together,” Schwartz said.

But JSD isn’t content to call it a good job and assume next semester will take care of itself, Schwartz said.

“So, what we’re doing over the summer is developing several different problems so no matter what happens, we’ll be able to meet the meal program needs, regardless of where we’re at,” Schwartz said. “It does help to have some experience now. Now, we really have some good foundational guidelines for this type of situation.”

USDA distribution points

Beginning May 25

• Geneva Woods Park- 12:15-1:45 p.m.

Beginning May 26

• Gruening Park Apartments Rec Center- 12-12:30 p.m.

Beginning June 1

• Cedar Park Community Hall- 12-12:30 p.m.

• Shepherd of the Valley- 12-1 p.m.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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