‘Our Schools Are The Spirit Of This Community’: Providing Meals For Students During COVID-19

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Around 500 sites across Colorado are offering free and reduced price meals to help feed students while schools shift to distance learning due to COIVD-19. The Colorado Department of Education reports a little over 40 percent of students across the state qualify for the meals. When schools close, these students lose access to consistent and nutritious meals.

Dalton Sprouse, the director of communications for Pueblo School District 60, said there is no question Pueblo students need access to the meals.

"We know for sure that our students are relying on our school district to provide them with healthy, nutritious meals," said Sprouse, "and not just once a day, but twice a day."

Drive-thru sites at eight schools in the Pueblo district are open from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays. Each offering includes breakfast and lunch. The district stopped serving meals during spring break, but started again on March 30 and expects to continue into April.

Nutrition plays a large role in learning ability, said Sprouse, and as schools began transitioning to distance learning they wanted to provide for students and families.

"Our schools are really the spirit of this community down here," said Sprouse. "We embrace that role. We wanted to make sure that we were doing our part to keep our children fed."

Stacey Baker, director of nutritional services for Lewis-Palmer School District 38, said workers distributed around 215 grab-and-go meals to students and their families the first day the site opened.

Rose Marie McEntyre is a kitchen worker from Palmer Ridge High School who passed out meals to students and families stopping by Lewis-Palmer High School. She said handing out meals was one way to continue to support students while practicing social distancing.

"I think it just helps them to see that they're still cared for by us, the staff from the school, and we're still thinking about them even though we're not there physically," said McEntyre. "We're still trying to provide for them from a distance."

Students in the district can pick up meals at Lewis-Palmer High School and Palmer Lakes Elementary School on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The district has also partnered with Tri-Lakes Care, an organization helping families connect with resources like rent assistance and medical payments.

The Colorado Department of Education has a full list of locations providing free and reduced meals around the state on its website.