Variety is the spice of life – and of school lunches

Apr 29, 2020

Until the end of June when the summer lunch program begins, Wareham Public Schools staff will be distributing free breakfasts and lunches for kids to enjoy seven days a week.

Last week, the staff served more than 12,000 meals for the first time -- and they hope to beat the record. Michael Russo, the Food Services Director for Wareham Public Schools, said that he and cafeteria staff are working to serve a variety of healthy, kid-friendly foods so the kids don’t get sick of what is being served.

Federal guidelines outline what needs to be included in each meal, including milk, whole grains, fruits or vegetables, and proteins at lunch.

Russo said he tries to balance serving tried-and-true favorites like baby carrots with items like raw broccoli, which was a surprise hit. For lunch, sandwiches on wheat bread are a staple, but the staff mixes things up with hot dogs and sandwiches on whole-wheat croissants. Russo said that he and his team take kids’ feedback into account when planning menus. After some complaints about dry sandwiches, staff started including single-serve packets of mayo or mustard with sandwiches. Some kids have said they dislike wheat bread, so they take the sandwich filling and eat it on white bread from home.

“We’re fine with that, but we have to give them wheat bread,” Russo said. “If they’re that stressed by the wheat bread, so be it!”

Bus drivers Lori Ellis and Corrine Lenihan serve food to kids, and say they have enjoyed the change of pace.

“It feels good to give people something they need,” said Ellis. “They’re very thankful.”

The pair expressed gratitude for the hard work of cafeteria workers, and the generosity of the community. A woman who wished to remain anonymous donated 90 gift cards to Marc Anthony’s to be distributed to families.

Lenihan and Ellis said they’ve had fun getting to see the kids -- and working together.

“I like my partner in crime,” said Lenihan.

All kids ages zero to 18 are eligible for free meals, regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in public schools. Children do not need to be present when meals are picked up. On Fridays, children will be given three breakfasts and three lunches to enjoy over the weekend.

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