MUSCATINE -- Under normal circumstances, Muscatine students would have been back in their classes after a fun spring break, but thanks to the COVID-19 closures, this isn’t the case.
However, as they stood out in the doorways of Franklin Elementary, wearing masks and gloves as they hand out paper bags, Teresa Salek and Lorana Spitznogle were doing their part to keep one aspect of school in session.
“We hope (students) are enjoying it,” Spitznogle, who has worked with the Muscatine Community School District for 39 years, said, “We’re just glad to do all we can to help.”
“The more the merrier!” Salek, the head cook at Central Middle School, added.
Using several school and non-school related locations around Muscatine, the MCSD’s free Grab and Go lunch program is officially in full swing this week. This program came from the need to keep students who depend on school lunches fed during the extended COVID-19 prompted break.
At their location, Salek said that they had given away 36 lunches the day before, and were expecting to serve even more that day. “We’ve had a lot more that have walked up today than yesterday.”
Down the road at the Salvation Army, fellow MCSD employees Susan Tyler and Ivonne Monroe-Brooks were also handing out lunches. “We’ve set up for thirty, so we’re hoping to give away all thirty,” Tyler said. She added that at other sites, such as the MCSD Administration Center, they gave away over 100 meals. “They did run out at the board office yesterday, and the high school kitchen ran some more out to them.”
“The times (at each location) are a little staggered,” Monroe-Brooks explained, “and we all have each other’s phone numbers if we need to make a run or make a mad dash.” With these efforts, both the District and the duos running each location will make sure that every child who needs a lunch is able to get one, even if it ends up being a bit late.
In addition, the program also has a calendar with each day having a different main item such as PB&J, ham and cheese, corndogs and more. The meal also includes fruit, baby carrots and ranch, and a choice of milk, as well as cereal and another serving of fruit, assuring breakfast for the student the next morning.
As an added dash of variety and fun, the dishes on Fridays are listed as ‘a surprise’. “It’s like a variety day,” Salek had explained. Students also receive a special prize on Fridays, such as an activity sheet, crayons, a small puzzle or even a book.
While Friday was still a few days away, Justina Muniz and her family were still thrilled to receive Tuesdays lunches. “I think it’s a great program,” she said, “I love it, the kids love it – especially since they aren’t in school.” For her three young kids, they weren’t just getting a meal, but also a sort of mini ‘field trip’.
“The boys ask every day when they’re going to get to go back to school,” Muniz said, “and this makes them more excited to go get their lunch since it’s ‘school’.”
Many other students and families have expressed positive feedback towards the program, and while it is still in its early stages, the MCSD are currently working on the details to keep the program going throughout the spring and summer, should it be needed. “We just hope people come so we can give them a free meal,” Tyler said.
“We’re here to please,” Monroe-Brooks added.
Residents are reminded that the child must be present in order to receive their meal. However, those who have any of the COVID-19 symptoms are asked not to come. For a complete list and further details on the Grab and Go lunch program, visit the Muscatine Community School District website or Facebook page.
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