Public Schools staff serve up thousands of meals to go

Apr 14, 2020

While schools are closed, the cafeteria staff and bus drivers are still hard at work as the district serves more than 11,000 meals each week. 

Any kid ages zero to 18 is eligible to pick up a free breakfast and lunch each weekday, and on Fridays, the staff serves three sets of breakfasts and lunches to keep them fed on the weekend. 

Recently, the district received a grant for nearly $9,000 to purchase equipment to allow them to increase the number and variety of meals served from the Eos Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting childhood hunger.

The foundation has been working with Wareham schools for several years to increase participation in the free breakfast program. When schools closed unexpectedly and as unemployment has risen, the need for meals for children has only increased.

“We’re working with districts across the state for emergency grants. The idea to help them ramp up to serve more children,” said Christy Mach Dube of the Eos Foundation. “The need is only going to grow as people lose their jobs.”

As Michael Russo, the Food Services Director for Wareham Public Schools explained, the goal is to get the meals to as many kids as possible. 

Meals are available to kids of all ages, regardless of where they live or if they are enrolled in Wareham schools. Children do not need to be present for adults to pick up meals on their behalf.

“If your kid needs meals, they need meals,” Russo said. “Come and get it.”

All the meals are grab and go, and are healthy, kid-friendly foods. Each breakfast comes with a milk, a whole-grain item, like a cinnamon toast crunch cereal bar, and a fruit or vegetable item, like an apple or a container of orange juice. Occasionally, a protein item like a yogurt cup will be included as well.

Each lunch includes a milk, a fruit or vegetable, and a sandwich on whole grain with meat and cheese and mustard or mayo on the side.

Russo said the grant money from the Eos Foundation will allow his staff to increase the number of meals they can serve. A portion of the funding was used to buy 80 coolers to keep the meals at a safe temperature, which will become more important as the weather gets warmer. As the program has grown, the staff were running out of cooler space -- especially on Fridays when each child gets a total of six meals.

Russo also purchased a number of reusable heat packs which can be put in coolers to keep food hot. That will allow him to switch up the lunch menu to include hot sandwiches like hot dogs, hamburgers, and hot wraps.
The last portion of the funding went to a number of cases of the plastic meal bags used to distribute the meals. Because the demand for meal bags is so high, he said that there can be a three week lag between when the school places the order and when the bags arrive. The grant allowed him to purchase enough bags that he doesn’t have to worry about running out.

“I’m just so impressed by how hard our staff has worked in these times,” said Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood. “Their dedication is just heartwarming and amazing. We are very, very  appreciative of the cafeteria workers, Mr Russo, bus drivers, and janitors.”

Meals are available between 9:30 and 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, at the following sites: 

—Wareham Middle School Drop Off – 4 Viking Drive, Wareham, MA 02571                 
—The Bandshell at Onset – 4 Union Ave, Onset, MA 02558                     
—The Gleason Family YMCA Parking Lot – 33 Charge Pond Rd, Wareham, MA 02571
—The Cranberry Highway Lot by Gold World – near 3112 Cranberry Highway, East Wareham, MA 02538
—The Woods at Wareham Apartment Complex – in the vicinity of 36 Swifts Beach Rd, Wareham, MA 02571
—The Cromesett Road Pump Station – on Terry Lane near Cromesett Road, Wareham, MA 02571    
—The Brandy Hill Apartment Complex – in the vicinity of 12 State St, East Wareham, MA 02538
—Shangri La Playground – near the intersection of Sunset Blvd and Restful Ln in Wareham, MA 02538                   
—Decas Elementary Parking Lot – 760 Main Street, Wareham, MA 02571          
West Wareham School Parking Lot – 1071 Main Street, West Wareham, MA 02576

Due to the Patriot’s Day holiday on Monday, April 20, four days worth of meals will be distributed on Friday, April 17.