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Lunch is served

FDCSD?providing ‘grab-and-go’ lunches to all FD kids regardless of school, income

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Linda Redman, a member of the food service staff at Butler Elementary School, hands out bagged lunches for Fort Dodge students on Monday morning. Families can go to Butler, Cooper, and Duncombe elementary schools and Riverside Early Learning Center from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m., Monday through Friday, as long as the schools remain closed.

When Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced her recommendation that all Iowa schools close for four weeks to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, many parents across the state worried about how they would keep their children fed during this time.

More than 40 percent of the state’s school-aged children are eligible for free and reduced lunch, according to information from the Iowa Department of Education. Many of those students also face food insecurity at home, making the idea of being out of school for an extended time seem very scary.

The Fort Dodge Community School District, along with many districts across the state, has stepped up to help provide healthy nutrition to as many children in the community as they can.

The district will be providing free grab-and-go lunches for all children 18 and under, regardless of where they go to school, on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. for the duration of the school shut down.

The grab-and-go lunches will be handed out in a drive-thru fashion at Butler Elementary School, 945 S. 18 th St.; Cooper Elementary School, 2420 14 th Ave. N.; Duncombe Elementary School,1620 Sixth Ave. N.; and Riverside Early Learning Center, 733 F St.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Linda Redman, a member of the food service staff at Butler Elementary School, hands out bagged lunches for Fort Dodge kids on Monday morning. The Fort Dodge Community School District is handing out free grab-and-go lunches for all kids 18 and under while the schools are closed for the COVID-19 virus.

There will be school buses full of packed lunches and staff to hand them out as cars drive up.

One lunch will be given per child, and the child must be present. Families are encouraged to stay in their cars and to not walk up.

“We are happy and proud to be able to provide this free resource to all children in Fort Dodge,” said Dr. Jesse Ulrich, FDCSD superintendent. “We are committed to helping our families however we can during this challenging time and the grab-and-go lunches are a small way we can show our kids and families we care about and miss them during the school closure.”

Planning these lunch distributions has been a “major logistical operation,” said FDCSD Director of Financial Services Brandon Hansel.

“First off, I’m really proud the way our staff pulled together to overcome the challenges presented,” Hansel said.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Brandon Hansel, director of financial services; Juanita Rydberg, food service; Joel Johnson, bus driver; Linda Redman, food service; and Jodi Chada, food service, helped supply and hand out dozens of grab-and-go lunches at Butler Elementary School on Monday morning.

On any given day throughout the school year, the district will serve more than 3,000 meals. On Monday, district staff prepared 1,500 grab-and-go lunches. Less than 400 were picked up on Monday, the first day of distribution.

“They were up since 7 a.m. prepping meals and we’ve got enough staff to adjust that number in real time if we need to,” he said.

A lot of planning went into figuring out efficient ways to distribute the meals and taking into account any bad weather, while also maintaining social distancing. It was challenging, Hansel said.

“I think we’ve come up with a good solution here,” he said.

The buses provide a shelter for the lunch bags and the staff, as well as provide a clear location for pick-up.

“As long as we have our school closure, we will do this,” Hansel said. “As long as we’re able and as long as we’re able to get supplies, we’ll continue this service.”

The lunches are available for all children, regardless of financial status.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in public school, private school, homeschool,” Hansel said. “They are all able to get a meal. Just come down and grab one.”

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