The school lunch line in a COVID-19 world

Updated: Mar. 23, 2020 at 2:26 PM EDT
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HANNAWA FALLS, N.Y. (WWNY) - They used to be the school lunch ladies. Now they’re on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.

Working the school lunch line was never like it is now. At the Hannawa Falls Fire Department, food service workers were handing out meals to students’ families who drove there.

“It's the kids. They're the important ones. Yes, I am scared...but I am taking precautions,” said Cheryl Denny, Potsdam Central School food service worker.

It's how schools are making up for children missing meals at school and for meals they'll miss at home now that job cuts and layoffs are hitting households.

“It does feel different, but with everybody that's helping us, it's wonderful. It's like, 'Hey, we're here. We're doing it together.' We're all in it together," said Denny.

They're only asking those who pull up one question: “How many children need a meal?” On Monday, 13,000 free meals handed out across St. Lawrence, Lewis and Jefferson counties.

“We've got a situation where a lot of kids might not have enough at home right now. We're trying to make sure we're feeding them breakfast and lunch,” said Dave Gravlin, Lewis-St. Lawrence BOCES food service director.

Families can pick up the meals at any distribution site. It doesn't even have to be in their own school district. Volunteers are also staffing the sites.

This is all being done under a waiver for a federal nutrition program that normally keeps schoolchildren fed during the summer. Now, it is being re-purposed for an entirely different set of circumstances.

It will also help ensure school food service workers can stay on the job. They say that's where they want to be.

“We just want to make sure all these kids are fed. It's our job. It makes me feel good about myself in making sure these kids are taken care of,” said Robin Stone, Potsdam Central School cook/baker.

Pick-up sites by school district are listed at the BOCES website. Individual districts are also posting and notifying parents of the program.

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