Local schools distribute food

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

REMSEN — Making sure children who are now home from school have food to eat, the schools in Remsen have been working to make that happen, as are others in the area.

St. Mary’s School in Remsen distributed perishable foods to its students last week, following the closure of all schools in Iowa due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Mary’s Administrative Assistant and Lunch Coordinator LeAnn Wiederholt said she started the process when she asked how best to use the perishable food to feed students.

“In communication with our consultant from the Iowa Department of Education, Food and Nutrition, it was stressed to us that we should not discard the perishables, but make sure that ‘it got into the stomach of children,’” she said.

“Through the Le Mars Daily Sentinel Textcaster and through parent e-mails, we notified our school community of the perishables that we needed to dispose of,” she said.

The items were bagged up to be given away starting at 10 a.m., Tuesday, March 17, and by 11 a.m., all was given away.

The food items distributed included: one case of kiwi; two bags of onions - red and yellow; two cases of apples; seven bags of carrots; eight bags of celery; cucumbers, green peppers; three bags of cauliflower; four bags of broccoli; seven bags of grapes; 11 heads of Romaine lettuce; one case of Cutie oranges; 30 dozen eggs; and 350-400 half pint cartons of milk.

“There is a need in our community and with the COVID-19 issues that we are dealing with, we were happy to be able to help with this need,” Wiederholt said.

MMCRU Superintendent Dan Barkel said the MMCRU Schools handed out food Wednesday, March 18.

Following that, Barkel said he received guidance from the state.

“We were not in compliance by doing that, because neither of the schools are in an area of 50 percent or more students on free or reduced lunch. So we can’t qualify for the summer lunch program,” he said.

With that information, Barkel said the district would not be able to provide the lunches.

However, he was hopeful the rules would change.

On March 21, the district put up the following notice:

“We have good news today! MMCRU has been approved for the summer lunch program by the USDA, so we can distribute free Grab N Go lunches starting on Monday. We will distribute only on Mondays and Thursdays between the hours of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., from the entryway at MMC Elementary and the RU school building. All students PK-12 are eligible for free food through this program. We will give you more information as it becomes available to us regarding this program.”

Barkel said he was happy to receive the approval from the USDA.

“They have relaxed the rules so we can offer food. That allows us to do grab ‘n go lunches at both the Remsen and Marcus sites,” he said.

“This week we did Monday and Thursday, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.,” he said. “That may be subject to change. We will see what the demand is. At least it gets the kids through Thursday and Friday.”

He added the school has the backpack program to help kids on the weekends.

“I reached out to the administration at St. Mary’s and gave them the information so if they had students who wanted to participate they can come and pick up food,” Barkel said.

The grab ‘n go bag also includes breakfast food.

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