The big yellow school bus pulled into Brookfield Acres on Wednesday, but no kids boarded to head to school. Instead, school employees handed out bag lunches to any kids who wanted one, and parents who collected them for their kids or neighbors’ kids.
Chris Thompson said her two boys were excited to see what was in the bags, and she was grateful for the “big time” help in feeding her family.
“I’m not working right now,” she said.
Dawn Kloss collected three lunches for her kids at the lunch dropoff spot at Addison Field.
“It means a lot,” she said. “There are so many people who can’t get food right now,” noting she went grocery shopping the day before, but meat was sold out.
Kloss also is not working, and a son was laid off when the DeWine administration closed fitness centers, such as the one where he worked.
It took a bit of work to get the lunch program set up while the school is closed to deter the spread of the Covid19 coronavirus – approvals were needed by the state and federal governments, and the Trumbull County Health Department was notified – but Brookfield Food Service Director Donna Bailey said the program will continue three days a week until school resumes or “the governor tells us to stop.”
On Wednesday, the school’s cafeteria workers loaded bags with two days worth of lunches, plus something for breakfast. They were required to provide protein, grain, vegetables, fruit and milk, so each bag contained a bologna and cheese sandwich, a wrap with turkey and cheese, bags of carrots and apple slices and milk. They also contained a package of doughnuts, homemade shamrock cookies and a juice box.
School bus drivers transported the lunches to four dropoff points, and a cafeteria worker accompanied the driver to jot down the names of who took a lunch, a government requirement. Families also could pick up lunches at the school. They were instructed to go to door eight at the back of the building.
At the Addison Field stop, cafeteria worker Chris Swanson walked around Hilltop Gardens trying to alert people that the lunches were ready, and elicited help from a resident in identifying which apartments contained children.
Bailey said just shy of 100 lunches were handed out at the drop-off spots, and another 75 were handed out at the school.
The menus for each day’s lunch will change, and hot items will be included on some days. Bailey was excited about what she had planned for Friday.
Lunches are provided Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Lunches can be picked up between 11 a.m. and noon at the back door; from 11 to 11:30 a.m. at Brookfield Acres and Addison Field; and from 11:30 a.m. to noon at Syme and Ohio streets and Standard Avenue and Miller Street.
Changes could be made to the program as it goes on, Bailey said.
District Supt. Toby Gibson came up with the idea for the lunch deliveries, Bailey said, but Gibson deflected credit saying, “The people in this district, how they came together and they collaborated.”
School board President Ronda Bonekovic praised the effort.
“I was losing sleep that kids were not going to be able to eat,” she said.
Separately, elementary Principal Stacey Filicky reached out to the 50 families who receive food through the Brookfield Backpack Charitable Fund, and they started coming Wednesday to collect food that normally would be sent home on Fridays. She said she was making arrangements for parents who couldn’t come Wednesday to pick up food at other times, and she planned to deliver food to families with transportation issues.