The Union R-XI School District has made it clear that its No. 1 priority is helping children in its community during the COVID-19 pandemic, not just with learning, but food too.
Assistant Superintendant Dr. Mike Mabe said the district served 210,272 meals between March 31 and June 23 through its food distribution program, which equates to 21,028 children fed in the area. However, the district began serving meals prior to that.
“From March 15 to March 31 we served meals that were site specific to the student,” Mabe said. “Meaning, if your child went to Clark-Vitt, that is where they picked up their meals.”
During that time, the district served about 5,000 meals.
“After the FDA and the state lifted their guidelines (on how food could be distributed) we decided to operate from one site and changed the way it was set up.”
After the restrictions were lifted, the district operated its food distribution from Union High School on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and opened it to any child in the area who was 18 or younger. Mabe said the one day a week was to limit the amount of time families had to go out during the pandemic.
In addition to the food distribution site, Mabe said the district had a food distribution transportation service for those who were not able to come to the site.
That service allowed the district to bring meals to families, and Mabe said there were about 100 to 150 meals served to families that way each week.
“It gave the kids some normalcy to see teachers and faculty, even if there could not be any physical contact, like a high-five or fist bump, at least you could say hi,” Mabe said.
The district funded its food distribution through the Seamless Summer Program, which allows for state reimbursement on free and reduced lunches.
The district also received a Farm to Table Grant, which allowed for the purchase of produce that the children received during the last weeks of the food distribution.
What stood out to Mabe the most was the fellowship he saw.
“Parents would bring signs, balloons, cupcakes and cookies to show their appreciation,” Mabe said. “In terms of the district employees, everyone stepped up to volunteer across the board. Even school board members volunteer.”
He gets “goose bumps” every time he thinks or talks about it because of all the good the program delivered.
While the food distribution program has ended, the district will be serving breakfast and lunch to students attending summer school, which is open to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.