Ashley Crislip was one of the many parents who drove in the line of vehicles at Kynoch Elementary School to pick up free meals for her kids, Brianna and Emilie, who are both students at the school.

While districts have closed schools due to concerns over COVID-19, many are continuing to provide free meals for students – including Marysville Joint Unified School District.

Sites are providing a bagged lunch for kids to eat right when they get home and a breakfast for the next morning Monday through Friday during the school closures.

“We’ve been coming out everyday,” Crislip said. “It not only lets my kids get out of the house, but they like seeing their teachers and stuff like that. But it’s also super helpful as a parent for them to have breakfast and lunch, especially since we’re trying to gather such low supplies at grocery stores.”

Amber Watson, director of nutrition services for MJUSD, said on Wednesday, they served about 1,000 for each meal, and Thursday they prepared to serve 1,300. Kynoch had 225 of each meal prepared.

Sandy McQuay, cafeteria manager at Kynoch Elementary School, and Ana Maria Torres, cafeteria assistant, were helping give meals to those who drove through, along with waving and smiling at the students.

“Looking at the kids’ faces when they see you, it just gives them a kind of normalcy back in their life,” McQuay said. “… Sometimes the school lunch is all they get, for some of these kids, we’re their lifeline to food.”

Eric Preston, principal of Kynoch Elementary School, said on Thursday, not only were they providing meals, but because of a donation, they were able to give out hygiene items.

“A local citizen donated about 70 bags of personal hygiene items that contain toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, a washcloth, etc.,” Preston said. “We also have boxes of deodorant and body wash … anything we can do to help families out.”

He said while the first day of serving meals was interesting – because they didn’t know how many people would need meals – it’s been going pretty smoothly since.

“We have so many kids that are dependent on free breakfast and lunch, every school in our district provides that, so if we can continue to provide some sense of normalcy for the kids in what is a crazy situation, I think it’s really good for them,” Preston said.

On normal school days, MJUSD schools serve free meals through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision but, because school is not in session, the meals are sponsored through the Summer Food Service Program.

“We have a high need here,” Watson said. “We are a low-income school district and by providing this, we’re ensuring the kids don’t have a missed meal.”

Watson said everyday she’s assessing how many meals are served and what the demand is like so they can make sure they’re meeting it.

Currently, meals are available at some school sites. But they also have non-school locations where families can pick up meals – Watson said they have buses that deliver the meals at those locations.

“With serving 1,000 (Wednesday), we normally serve 7,000 lunches on a school day so we’re still reaching only a fraction of what our normal need is on a daily basis,” Watson said. “So we’re getting creative with the bus routes and stops.”

Meal service is available for any children 18 years old and under. It’s asked that people remain in their vehicles when picking up meals and children must be present – meals must be consumed off site.

“Bring them out!” McQuay said. “This is what it’s all about, in a time of sadness we can make it better. We have to stay positive and give the kids what they need.”

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