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School-based food distribution an overwhelming success

A group of women are hard at work packing lunches for Johnson County Schools’ new food distribution program.  In its first week, buses have delivered 10,322 meals. Submitted photos.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Johnson County and the rest of the world are in an uproar about the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). Public parks and picnic areas are closed, businesses are shutting down or limiting hours, and people can no longer gather without fear of spreading the contagion.

According to a recent statement from County Mayor Mike Taylor, as of Saturday, March 28, there are two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mountain City. Johnson County Schools stepped up to take care of students even though schools shut down. Officials delivered over 10,000 meals to students during their first week of distribution.

“During this unprecedented time, our student population may not be able to come to school, but we can go to them,” School Nutrition Director Kathy McCulloch explained. “There are hundreds of students in our community who desperately need these meals, and that alone is why we do what we do!”

McCulloch knows that many students depend on school lunches as their only source of food. That is what prompted her to create a delivery system. Mountain City Elementary was transformed into a hub for county-wide distribution on Monday, March 23. The kitchen staff normally makes food for approximately 400 students. McCulloch’s program made the number skyrocket to nearly 2,000 meals per day in less than two hours.

“The success of this program is not only a result of how we have come together as a school system but as an entire county,” McCulloch said. “We have received overwhelming support from both inside and outside of our community. We appreciate the hard work and dedication that every individual has put into this vital service.”

Bus drivers and other personnel volunteered to help deliver breakfast and lunch to current students. This is especially helpful after both local and state government officials issued Stay at Home orders. School food delivery programs are not subject to closure.

Johnson County Schools shut down on March 17. Last reports say schools should reopen on April 24 if the situation allows it.  For information on school food deliveries, schedule changes, and online resources, visit jocoed.net.

Workers load one of many buses for food distribution. According to Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox, Johnson County Schools also sends books for students.