Fremont Public Schools will offer breakfast and lunch to children starting Monday, March 23.
The program comes in response to growing coronavirus concerns that indefinitely closed all local schools in Fremont. Students would normally be returning to the classroom next Monday following the conclusion of Spring Break.
More than 60% of FPS's student population qualifies for either free or reduced lunch.
Associate Superintendent Brad Dahl said the program will be offered at three different locations: Washington Elementary School, Bell Field Elementary School and Linden Elementary School at the southeast parking lot. Any children between the ages of 1-18 will qualify for the program.
"This is a huge priority," he said. "When you think of the makeup of our student body, it's critical that we think of ways that they find food. Over 60% of our student population qualifies for free and reduced. In these extraordinary times, there's a chance that their position could even be worsened."
All three locations will offer grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches. Director of Food Service Rowan Lang said. The schools will give out breakfast and lunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Lang said the program is similar to the summer feeding program the school implements, which typically brought in approximately 200-300 students. Due to circumstances, Lang said that number could shift drastically.
"None of us have experienced what we are going through during the last week or two," he said. "We have never done this in Fremont as a drive-by service. Those will be the biggest challenges."
Lang said FPS is preparing up 2,000 packaged breakfasts and lunches for the three locations to prepare for the potentially large influx of children and families who will make use of the program.
FPS won't be requiring identification in order to receive the food, meaning that children from other schools in Fremont can make use of the service. The only requirement is that all children who need breakfast be with their parents when they pick up the food.
"Students must be present to pick up the meal, you can't just say that you have four additional children at home and take home those extra packets," Dahl said.
FPS will begin with just using cold breakfast and lunches, which will include items such as cereal, yogurt, milk, bagels and pretzels. Lang hopes to implement hot food, such as burgers and hot dogs, later in the week.
Lang said he was confident the three locations would provide enough food to the Fremont community.
"I'm pretty confident," he said. "I don't anticipate that we will need 2,000 grab-and-go bags, but we will prepare for it."
For families who need lunches now, Glen Ellis said his business, Milady Coffeehouse in downtown Fremont, will provide sack lunches to students in grades preschool through 12th or college students.
"We gave approximately 50 away today," said Jamie Brodd, a chef at Milady, who came up with the lunch sack idea.
Brodd said she knows many students depend on free or reduced-price lunches they wouldn’t receive due to school closures.
“There’s a short window here where there’s a need and I’m glad Jamie came up with the idea,” Ellis said. “We have no idea what to expect, but we’re going to give it our best.”
The sack lunches will consist of a meat or peanut and butter and jelly sandwich, a bag of potato chips and a cookie.
Students are welcome to get a sack lunch.
“If a parent comes in and says, ‘I need three lunches for my kids,’ we’re not going to question it. The child does not have to be present,” Ellis said.
Sack lunches will be available during Milady’s regular operating hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
People can request a sack lunch whether it will be eaten at the time or saved for the next day.
“If moms and dads want to come in and grab lunches for their kids for the next day, they’re welcome to do that as well,” Brodd said. “Until the resources dry up, we’ll keep fulfilling the need.”
The endeavor has gained attention.
“We’ve had a lot of interest online, a lot of people who support that and, hopefully, this sparks generosity and the desire to help one another out again. Just like the floods of last year, the community came together,” Brodd said.
Ellis isn’t sure what the demand for lunches will be.
“We’ve prepared for a lot. We’ve got a lot of meat. The thing that will probably slow us down is bread. Bread is hard to come by. Last night, there were seven loaves on the store shelves and we took four of them,” he said.
Ellis said people already have expressed a desire to donate to the cause. He may accept monetary donations, but not supplies so the business can control quality and for safety reasons.
All food for the sack lunches will come from the coffeehouse’s professional kitchen.
The coffeehouse hasn’t accepted monetary donations yet.
“We’re going to judge the flow and then decide to open up for donations if this is going to go on for longer than a couple of days,” Brodd said.
Ellis believes it’s important to help others.
“We have the ability and it’s just the right thing to do to help the people in need,” Ellis said. “Nobody should be hungry.”
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