Hart Co. News-Herald
Over the last year and a half, school food service staff have rarely had any downtime. Working diligently during the COVID pandemic to ensure students had meals at home meant that their jobs extended beyond what is normally expected.
The Hart County School System has always worked with the Dairy Alliance to encourage students to drink more milk, and that alliance has helped to bring meals into homes, even when students weren’t in school. Throughout the summer, meals and gallons of milk were distributed to families for home-use. In a drive-thru fashion, guardians of Hart County students could pick up five days of meals at one stop.
Between the beginning of the summer feeding program on June 1 and the last distribution date on August 2, Hart County Schools distributed 39,965 meals and 3,996 gallons of milk.
“I am extremely pleased with the number of families we have been able to help out this summer by providing meals for their students,” said Chris Russell, Child Nutrition Director for Hart County Schools. “Families have been very appreciative. I am hopeful that we can operate this program again next summer.”
Just as with school lunches, summer meals fully met USDA guidelines and typically had expiration dates 3-4 months into the future.
“This is not food that had to be consumed immediately,” explained Alan Curtsinger, Dairy Alliance Youth Wellness Manager. “It’s not just about the Dairy Alliance, but we want to support schools and school meals programs, and those who have continued feeding kids year round…It’s a great opportunity for anyone to take advantage of. There’s plenty to go around for all families.”
The Dairy Alliance is supported by dairy farm families within the state and works with school nutrition professionals throughout the southeast to promote dairy nutrition, enhance school menu options, address food insecurity, and promote physical activity. At the forefront of their efforts are youth wellness and school-provided meals, where there is an emphasis on encouraging students to enjoy dairy through products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
While the summer feeding program has ceased as students return to school, the efforts will simply shift to the school setting to ensure students continue benefiting from balanced dairy-rich meals so they can perform their best in school, as well as outside of school.