Gretna Public Schools staff were unwavering in their efforts to provide food to students in need last month.
Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s COVID-19 relief and food assistance programs, Gretna Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services was able to provide more than 1,800 meals for nearly 200 students within the district over winter break.
“We were given permission to provide up to 10 meals per student over break,” said FANS director Sharon Schaefer. “I couldn’t see, if a family was in need, why I wouldn’t give them the most I’m allowed to.”
The 10 meals equated to one meal per weekday for each student who requested assistance over the two week break from school.
Meals were handed out Dec. 18, 2020, with a bag or box provided to each student for easy transport.
“They were easy to get in the car and to carry, but we also had to think about food safety,” Schaefer said. “It’s easy to give people 10 meals but 10 meals that would last two weeks, we needed to give them items that were frozen and could remain frozen until it was time to heat and serve.”
Food items included a gallon of milk instead of the individual cartons provided at lunch and a 2-pound bag of frozen vegetables along with a portion of fresh veggies instead of 10 different vegetables in pre-portioned baggies.
Larger families received a 5-pound package of cooked, shredded and smoked pork and a bag of hamburger buns and smaller families received things like burritos and enchiladas wrapped in foil, breaded chicken on a hamburger bun or the popular yogurt and cheese stick grab-and-go meals.
“I think a lot of families that needed that extra bit of assistance received it,” Schaefer said.
The program was similar to offerings on behalf of GPS FANS when students were learning remotely.
Going forward, Schaefer said that while she can’t guarantee funding will be available in the future, she plans to apply for it any time it is.
“Anytime there’s funding available that the district qualifies for, we want to make sure our community doesn’t have food insecurity as another obstacle they’re facing,” Schaefer said.