What it takes to make 100,000 meals for WLS students

All students are eligible for the free breakfasts and lunches.
Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:08 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - All hands are on deck for Washington Local Schools' food distribution day.

Even though the meal distribution at Whitmer High School doesn’t start until 11, cars started lining up at 9:30.

“The first thing that happened when the governor closed schools down was we thought, “What is going on?” The second words of our mouth was “How do we feed them?”” says Washington Local superintendent Dr. Kadee Anstadt.

Since then, Washington Local employees have been feeding more and more kids every week. This week, they’ve prepared 5,000 kid-friendly food kits. The staff does a distribution every two weeks - breakfast and lunch - meaning twenty meals per kit, or 100,000 total this week.

Deb Warren is head of nutrition services for Washington Local Schools, and the brain of the operation.

“Truly this is for the kids. We want to make sure that they’re getting their bellies full, and they’re staying hydrated, and well and fed while they’re off during this time,” says Warren.

Warren has to think a month ahead. Right now bags are being packed for the next distribution and food is being ordered for the one after that, in four weeks.

“If we go back to March when this first happened, and we start to quantify who the essential workers were - the people who were going to be going to work every day to keep the rest of us going... and honestly some of the most important people in that equation has been food service workers,” says Anstadt.

Before COVID, families had to apply for reduced or free meals based on income, but now, the program is open to everyone.

“When we have to worry about paper applications and people submitting them and all the paperwork that goes along with that, this just eliminated all of that, and we can do what we really should be doing, which is making sure our kids get fed,” says Warren.

All this is made possible by a waiver program that allows the federal government to reimburse the school district for the cost of the meals. That program has been extended through December. But the meal distribution will change in October once the students are back in school on a hybrid schedule.

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