MUSKEGON, Mich. — May 1 is School Lunch Hero Day and food service staff at the twelve local public school districts in Muskegon County are being honored for reaching a momentous milestone: serving more than 1 million meals.
More than one million meals will have been given to children facing food insecurity in the county since school buildings closed back in March.
These "school lunch heroes" will join others all over the nation being honored for serving up not just food, but hope, for student amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a press release from the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District.
“Our food service staff have huge hearts for kids. They know there are hungry kids out there and this is what we do,” said Erik Neering, the district manager of Chartwells School Dining. “Our staff snapped into action when this crisis hit and they continue to amaze me as the demand for meals increases,” he added. Neering said 176,232 meals were distributed last week alone.
Schools have been providing free breakfasts, lunches, and some suppers in a variety of ways since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order closing all K-12 schools in the state on March 16. Schools were scheduled to reopen in early April, but on April 2, Whitmer closed schools for the remainder of the academic year.
Hundreds of children in the state rely on the meals they eat at school and with buildings being closed, districts were concerned with how they would provide students with sustenance while at home.
In Muskegon County, 12 school districts work to provide seven days of meals on a once-a-week basis, according to MAISD. Some districts are delivering at bus stops, many have set times for curbside pickup, and others have designated multiple pickup spots within the community. Many local community groups and churches are providing valuable assistance for distribution and delivery.
PHOTOS: 1 million meals distributed in Muskegon County
“Our food service staff and volunteers are truly heroes," Dan Gorman said. He's the food service director for Whitehall District Schools and Montague Area Public Schools. "They are providing a nutritional safety net for kids who may not have healthy meals like this at home. One parent told me she didn’t think their young kids would eat the carrots, but now they eat them like crazy.”
Over 160 “school lunch heroes” from schools located in Muskegon County have participated in providing meals for children since school buildings in Fruitport, Holton, Mona Shores, Montague, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, North Muskegon, Oakridge, Orchard View, Ravenna, Reeths-Puffer, and Whitehall.
The School Nutrition Association and Jarrett Krosoczka, author of the “Lunch Lady” children’s graphic novel series, created School Lunch Hero Day. It has been celebrated annually since 2013 to provide an opportunity for parents, students, school staff and communities to thank those who provide healthy meals to nearly 30 million of America’s students each school day
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