While the Pine Bush Central School District school buildings have been closed since mid-March, much has been going on within the district, including with our Food Service Department. The Pine Bush Central School District served 21,218 meals in two days last week. Quite an achievement considering when school was in session, the weekly meals averaged 20,000 in five days.
The Pine Bush Central School District has been distributing no-cost meals at its Children’s Meal Stops Tuesdays and Thursdays at Family Church in Middletown, Circleville Middle School and Pine Bush High School since March 16.
Breakfast and lunch meals are served through a drive-through style service where the greeter is informed of the number of children and if there are any allergies to be aware of when picking up meals. On Tuesdays, two days’ worth of meals are distributed; on Thursdays, three days’ meals are handed out.
A variety of meals
Breakfast meals include cereal and muffin varieties, bagels, pancakes, waffles in the rotating menu. Lunch meals include ready-to-eat hot entrees, sandwiches and salads as well as meals that are ready-to-be reheated. There are many different entrees, including roasted chicken, pasta with meatballs, sliced turkey with gravy, pizza, hamburgers, yogurt parfaits, taco kits and many other entrees which all include fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and milk.
One lunch that was “piloted” included the ingredients to make a homemade chicken soup. It included diced cooked chicken, whole carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes along with broth and instructions to prepare it. This meal was very well received and will be distributed again, according to Lyn Prestia, director of Food Services at the district.
Volunteers make it work
The Children’s Meal Stops teams are a combination of food preparation teams, inside volunteer teams, and outside volunteer teams all coming together to serve record numbers of meals in two days that surpass the previous five-day totals. These teams include the School Nutrition Department and a variety of other PBCSD employees, community members, Town of Crawford and Town of Wallkill police officers and municipal employees.
“I am so grateful for the hard work of our employees and volunteers from throughout the community that makes our food distribution program a success in this trying time,” said Superintendent Tim Mains. “It’s amazing and gratifying to see how this Pine Bush community comes together for our children.”
Prestia estimates families can save $50 per week per child by picking up meals at the distribution locations which are served in blue and gold bags, our school colors. The district recently conducted an online meal distribution survey to ensure our students are being nourished properly while they learn remotely. Results will be available and analyzed soon.
With much help from the community
The district is not going this alone. In addition to the many volunteers who help out at the distribution stops each week, there have been several generous donations to the program. These include 35,000 bags of Popcorners (Middletown), five pallets of GimMe Teriyaki Seaweed Snacks from the Coalition for Healthier Schools, an anonymous donation of 200 cases of Chobani yogurt, fresh apple slices from McDonalds, bottled water courtesy of Kohls, food service gloves and bottled drinks for volunteers from Pine Bush Deli, and hamburger rolls from Stewarts. The District also recently distributed cloth face mask packs that were supplied by the Orange County Office of Emergency Management.
“All meals continue to meet USDA child nutrition guidelines and play an important role in alleviating food insecurity and hunger when traditional school meals are not available,” said Prestia. “Cafeterias have been turned into work spaces and store rooms, meals have been served in rain, wind, and snow, and a large, refrigerated, self-contained unit was brought in to provide extra capacity that was quickly needed.”
Despite challenges never seen before, the food distribution program continues to expand to serving more than 147,000 no-cost meals – and counting –while schools are closed during the coronavirus crisis.
“The entire school community has come together to meet the needs of our children and families when many are in a very difficult time,” said Prestia. “They make it look easy, but our new normal ‘meal program’ is quite different and extremely challenging.”