School may be out for the summer, but thanks to state and federal grants Polk School District is working to make sure local children get the food they need.
Dr. Linda Holland, Director of School Nutrition for Polk County Schools, and her department never lost a step after the end of the school year in May as they prepared for their summer feeding program and food distribution.
The most wide-reaching of these is the free food distribution, which is set up at both Cedartown High School and Van Wert Elementary School in Rockmart on most Thursday evenings from 5-6 p.m.
Each site works like an assembly line with families able to drive through and pick up food for the eligible school-aged children in their household. Each child is provided with seven days of breakfasts and lunches, including frozen entrees, fruits, vegetables, cereal, juice and milk.
Families also receive extra items, like watermelons and half gallon jugs of milk to help with providing healthy snacks and extra items during the week.
“We are consistently giving out over 15,000 meals to be able to help families in Polk County so it’s just a wonderful opportunity to be able to help any child,” Superintendent Dr. Katie Thomas said. “And so as long as they continue to help school systems out to be able to help the community, we’ll continue to do it.”
While the program takes a break this week, it will return July 8 and continue on July 15 and 22. The new school year begins Aug. 2 for Polk County Schools.
Several school district employees and volunteers, such as members of the Rockmart High School football team, help ensure the food distribution goes smoothly, dividing up items and helping load them into the vehicles.
This past Thursday saw a steady stream of vehicles come through both sites with a final tally of nearly 17,000 meals distributed to local families.
Thomas said they had a slightly different way of distributing meals last summer but has seen the current way not only go smoother but reach more children.
“We had summer feeding sites and we did have some pickup sites as well, but we have definitely seen that this way of doing things and giving out for seven days and doing it one night a week has been tremendous in helping the community and having more people participate,” Thomas said.
Holland and her staff were recently recognized by No Kid Hungry and the Georgia Vision Project for School Nutrition for continuing to provide meals to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proclamation noted the nutrition department’s willingness to shift operations and adapt their meal programs to curbside pickup, home delivery and classroom feeding in addition to regularly serving fresh local foods and working collaboratively with school nutrition professionals and agriculture producers across the state of Georgia.