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RSU 3 staff steps up to power massive meal distribution effort

1,000 meals delivered in a day
By Fran Gonzalez | Mar 19, 2020
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Volunteers at the Mount View complex shuttle boxes into waiting vans and buses ready to deliver free lunches to homebound students and their families March 19.

Thorndike — "Five hundred students will be receiving food today," said Tina Fabian, Regional School Unit 3 nutritional director, "and that number is going up by the hour."

A large-scale food distribution effort took place Thursday morning at the Mount View complex, with many volunteers loading boxes packed with free lunches onto buses and vans in preparation for delivery to district students and their families.

The free meals are available for any RSU 3 student or anyone 18 and younger who has a need. “If you have kids staying with you,” RSU 3 Superintendent Charles Brown said, “as long as they are on our route,” it is possible to receive a meal box.

Food distribution started Tuesday and Wednesday this week with families stopping in to pick up free meal boxes. “We sent home about 1,500 meals already,” Fabian said. “Today we have 14 vans going.”

Brown said that last Saturday, the district held an administrative meeting and Fabian "jumped on this right away. ... She got the ball rolling."

“We have been overwhelmed with support from the community,” Brown said. "Many organizations asked 'How can we help?'” Most of the volunteers Thursday, he said, were staff.

“Our staff knows the importance of doing this,”  Brown said. “They stepped up.”

The reason this effort is necessary, Brown said, is that food insecurity in Waldo County is overwhelming. “Sixty-five percent of students (in RSU 3) receive free and reduced lunches,” he said. “There is definitely a need.”

The food being packed and given away, Brown said, is from the Mount View cafeteria. “We did have to order more to have on hand. Yesterday we had chop suey.”

Brown said the administration called every student’s family to see if they needed food and to see how they were doing. "This is important to us as a community," he said.

When asked about how the school district was handling remote learning, Brown said most teachers had prepared packets and connected with kids, trying to figure out their needs. “The challenge is, a significant number of families don’t have internet at home,” Brown said. “We are currently looking at our options.” Some packets are being delivered with the meals.

Lisa Roux, Walker Elementary School principal, personally delivered packets along with meals to students at her school. “A few students hadn’t received their packets,” Roux said.

Fabian said she felt grateful to work in a community that has the students' best interests in mind. “No kid should have to go hungry,” she said. “We have to do this.”

Mount View High School Principal Zack Freeman said the last few days have been long and trying with so many changes happening every day. "When kids ask, ‘When are we coming back?’ I tell them hopefully soon, but we don’t know for sure.”

Freeman said that around 90% of the high school students came in to pick up their work and get lunch as well. “It’s pretty impressive what our community is doing,” he said. “We will get through this.”

Peter Quimby, facilities and transport director, said there were 14 drivers Thursday and that four routes had been consolidated to optimize travel times. “We relied on staff to put the packages together,” he said, adding that it has been “very humbling seeing the crew.”

“We will do it as long as we can,” he said.

Brown said the district was open to other needs in the community and would help “as best we can.” The district will continue the meal delivery service as long as the school is closed, he said. To have a meal delivered, contact the central office at 948-6136.

“This has given us the opportunity to get out of our school and get out into the community,” Brown said. “It’s important.”

In an email to parents Thursday evening, RSU 3 officials said 1,000 meals were delivered to students today, and asked the district for help.

"If you signed up for a meal for your child, we ask that someone please come out to meet the van/bus. This is to help us follow CDC recommendations to protect our employees and to help expedite our deliveries.

"If you are unable to meet the van/bus, please leave a cooler out for us to drop off meals. If you have any questions or concerns, please call 568-3678 or 948-6136," the email said.

The coordinated meal distribution project at the Mount View complex March 19 was a team effort, district officials said. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
RSU 3 Nutrition Director Tina Fabian goes over last- minute instructions before the transportation team heads out to the district March 19. The effort brought 500 students free lunches on this day. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Volunteers at Mount View complex bring prepared meals out for pickup and delivery March 19. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Boxes with free meals are ready to be delivered to homebound RSU 3 students March 19. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
RSU 3 Facilities and Transportation Director Peter Quimby, right, coordinates delivery routes with volunteers March 19 at the Mount View Complex. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Bus 31 becomes the RSU 3 Vittle Van for meal distribution to homebound kids. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Buses and vans leave Mount View Complex Thursday morning, March 19, to deliver free meal boxes to homebound students in the district. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
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