Schools take lead role in feeding children

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CURBSIDE SERVICE – Huntingdon High School head football coach Eric Swenson hands a free, hot meal to eight-year-old Lakeitha Cason Thursday at Huntingdon Middle School. Driving is Lakeitha’s mother, Paige Umstead, and sitting in the passenger’s seat is Ernest Pearson.

When Tennessee Governor Bill Lee instructed all public schools in the state to close last week, he also urged the individual school districts to find ways to continue school meal programs for all children – especially for those from low income families who rely on school meals to meet their daily nutritional needs.

And over the past week, all of Carroll County’s five special school districts have stepped up to the plate and have worked out ways to provide our county’s children with the food they need.

Huntingdon Schools

The Huntingdon Special School District cranked up their emergency meal program during the first day of county-wide closure on Thursday, providing both breakfast and lunch drive-thru style at three sites, including Huntingdon Middle School, the Carroll County Civic Center, and Huntingdon Church of Christ.

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Meal deliveries were also made by volunteers to local daycare centers and some homes.

According to Huntingdon Director of Schools Pat Dillahunty, a combined total of around 1,250 meals were either picked up or delivered on Thursday and Friday of last week.

But, as Dillahunty pointed out, some adjustments were made on Monday as the middle school, which was the busiest pickup site on Thursday and Friday, was designated as the sole pickup site in Huntingdon, while deliveries to daycares and some homes continues.

Breakfast for children and teens ages 18 and under can be picked up at HMS Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., and lunch pickup is available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dillahunty said that over 100 school district staff members have volunteered to help out, and district food service employees have been working hard to keep the hot meals coming.

“It has gone really well,” said Dillahunty. “The families have been very appreciative. We’re just trying to help out in difficult times.”

McKenzie Schools

The McKenzie Special School District started grab-and-go meals on Monday at McKenzie Middle School.

Families with children can come and pickup both breakfast and lunch to go from 11 a.m. to 12 noon Monday through Friday.

McKenzie Director of Schools Lynn Watkins said that many McKenzie teachers and some district cafeteria staff members are taking part in the effort.

West Carroll Schools

A different approach is being employed by the West Carroll Special School District.

As West Carroll Director of Schools Dexter Williams detailed, meals were made available for pickup at several different sites on the west side of the county on Thursday and Friday, but as the district’s population is so spread out and some families don’t have access to transportation, a change of plans was made.

Starting Monday morning, nine county school buses were rolled out as delivery vehicles with bus drivers running different routes, stopping at every home where children are known to reside. Between 40 and 50 district staff volunteers rode along, handing out three days worth of breakfasts and lunches for each child.

Williams said the busses will roll out again on Thursday morning with two days of breakfasts and lunches per child, and the process will be repeated on Monday and Thursday of next week.

The meals are being prepared at West Carroll Junior-Senior High School by cafeteria staff from all three district schools.

Williams thanked the Carroll County School District for the busses and the drivers.

Hollow Rock-Bruceton Schools

Meals for children ages 1 to 18 in the Hollow Rock-Bruceton Special School District are being provided at three different pickup sites at set dates and times, according to Director of Schools David Duncan.

The pickup sites include the front entrance of Central High School, the Vale Community Center parking lot, and the Smyrna Baptist Church parking lot.

The first pickup day was on Thursday of last week and the second was on Monday with multiple breakfasts and lunches being provided for each child at one time.

Upcoming pickup dates include Thursday, March 26; Monday, March 30; and Thursday, April 2.

Pickup times at each site are 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the high school, 11:30 a.m. to 12 noon at the VCC, and 11:30 to 12 noon at SBC.

Duncan pointed out that, according to USDA regulations, children must be present in order for the meals to be provided. He also pointed out that people should remain in their vehicles while the meals are brought out by volunteers, and the meals are not to be eaten at the pickup sites.

South Carroll Schools

Meal distribution at Clarksburg School started on Thursday of last week and will continue this week and next week, Monday through Friday.

According to Director of Schools Tony Tucker, one breakfast and lunch per child can be picked up together between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. at the side doors by the cafeteria.

Volunteers will bring the meals out to the vehicles as they pull up.

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Note: Due to state regulations, emergency meal programs in all or some county school districts will cease during the school calendar week of spring break, April 6-10. 

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