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Keeping the kiddos fed

CCA provides over 53,000 meals during shutdown, and theyre not done yet
Clear Creek Amana Community School Districts food service staff posed for a group photo in front of boxes of snack items used in over 53,000 pre-packaged meals, which were distributed at 11 sites to students during the districts COVID-19 shutdown.

TIFFIN When the COVID-19 crisis closed schools, districts across the state scrambled to provide distance learning opportunities and electronic devices to make it possible. They also had to come up with a way to provide a more basic need: the lunches and breakfasts many of their students depended on.
The Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District quickly mobilized on both fronts, distributing Chromebook tablets and acquiring and distributing Internet hot spots. The district also formulated a first-of-its-kind (for CCA) plan to keep the meals coming.
As soon as we were shutdown, we were looking at a lot of disparity among families, and hardships due to their businesses closing, Debbie Klein, the districts food and nutrition coordinator said. Complicating matters was the need to cook up a meal plan totally from scratch. We had no guidance anywhere, and there wasnt any reference from previous efforts to go off of. The first day was challenging, Klein said, but now with three solid months under their belts, Everybodys a pro.
The district had just received food deliveries ahead of spring break, so when Gov. Kim Reynolds proclamation closing the schools (during the break) hit, the food service staff at least had full coolers to work from. Not only did they already have food available, they were also able to provide some semblance of familiarity, and perhaps relieve some anxiety, in an immediately unusual time. Lets give them something theyre familiar with, Klein said of the meal plans. Lunches consisted of pre-packaged meals containing ready-to-heat school lunch favorites such as pizza slices, chicken nuggets, chicken patty sandwiches and the ever-popular crispitos (rolled tortillas). A breakfast meal was also included so that the students could have lunch for today, and breakfast for tomorrow, Klein explained.
Klein scurried about to find containers for the meals (brown paper bags, for example, were in short supply initially), which are packaged at the middle school in Tiffin, loaded into district-owned vans and taken by volunteers (teachers, secretaries and other CCA staff) to 11 distribution sites. All food staff and volunteers follow the latest CDC guidelines as they wear masks and gloves both during preparation and distribution, and practice social distancing. She said many students have taken some comfort and enjoyment in seeing their teachers at the pick-up locations.
The meals are provided to CCA families 100 percent free of charge, and without any financial requirements or qualifications, for kids from age 0 to 18.
CCA served 2,976 lunches and 2,860 breakfasts in March ahead of a massive increase in April, when 14,348 lunches and 14,329 breakfasts were prepared and distributed. A downward trend was noted in May as 9.174 lunches and 9, 154 breakfasts were handed out. There were days of 1,000-1,100 meals in one day, said Klein. The count for the three-month period is a staggering 26,398 lunches and 26,343 breakfasts, a total of 52,741.
And theyre not done yet.
The program was initially scheduled to cease at the end of the school year on June 4, but it will now continue through the summer until Friday, Aug. 21, just ahead of the scheduled start of the 2020-2021 school year. There will be a change in the service effective Monday, July 6. To make things even easier for all involved, the meals will be distributed twice a week with five lunches, and five breakfasts. The district is providing detailed information about the change to all CCA families.
As the pandemic has dragged on, Klein said the districts food distributors have provided phenomenal service in keeping CCA well stocked. Theyre continuing to service us as if it were a regular school year, she said.
CCA applied for, and received, two grants, Klein said. One was from No Kid Hungry, a 501(c)(3) charity, while the other was from Iowa Farm to School, a program mandated through legislation in 2007, which connects schools with Iowa farmers in an effort to provide fresh, Iowa-grown produce. Through Farm to School, CCA has been able to access Field to Family, an online farmers market, which provides a hub for bulk orders of locally grown produce. Klein noted even though the meals are not served in the schools cafeterias, they still must abide by the USDAs nutrition requirements. CCA staff has provided as much variety as they could, she added.
In addition to food, other local organizations have reached out to Klein to enrich the students in other ways. For example, the North Liberty Community Library included summer reading program materials, and the Iowa State University Extension Service in Iowa County has provided 4-H learning kits to go with the meals. Also, kites that would have been used in a community event (cancelled due to the virus) were also donated to the kiddos.
This wouldnt happen without a great school community, Klein said.