TESD delivers meals for families in need


By Alexis Costas and Emma Clarke, Staff Reporters

School provides many essentials such as education, relationships and extracurriculars to students. One essential that is often overlooked, however, is the meals that schools provide to many children. With ’Stoga closed for the rest of the school year, the question of how to provide meals for families in need arose. With reimbursement from the National School Lunch Program, kitchen staff from across the T/E School District have been meeting in the Conestoga kitchen every two weeks to assemble meal care packages for families receiving free or reduced meals. Dave Preston, Food and Nutrition Services Supervisor, coordinates the program.

“We do a care package every two weeks. The first day, we package all of the non-perishable items, and then the next day, we package all of the perishable and frozen entrees. At this point, we’ve only used pre-packaged items so that families will feel comfortable handling it and we minimize exposure,” Preston said.

According to Preston, the care packages, which are given to about 265 children every two weeks, consist of 10 breakfasts and 10 lunches. The meals follow the national school lunch and national school breakfast program guidelines, with entrees consisting of bread, protein, fruit, vegetables and milk. While the meals are primarily pre-packaged and non-perishable at this point, Preston notes that this may change as the number of families receiving care packages increases and the program continues.

“We’re running into the issue more and more each time of availability because our providers can’t get (packaged entrees) to us because a lot of districts are doing this. In fact, the next time in two weeks, I don’t think we’ll be able to get enough packaged entrees, and we’re actually going to have to pick another day where we can do assembly — where we can make sandwiches and freeze them because (the meals we send) can’t be perishable items,” Preston said.

Meal prep: Boxes of pre-packaged meals line the walls of the Conestoga cafeteria. The meals were prepared by cafeteria staff and district administrators.

Despite many citizens offering their help, there are no volunteers present in the care package program.

“I coordinate getting the staff in, and we’ve set up the Conestoga High School kitchen with double assembly lines with arrows every six feet so that everybody stays apart, and we have masks for everybody, and they wear gloves. It’s kind of tough because you’re in a kitchen close together and assembling 5,200 meals while wearing a mask, so anyone can take a break anytime,” Preston said. 

To many of those working on the meal provisions, including Preston and Athletic Director Kevin Pechin, the program is an essential operation during these unprecedented times to help everyone in the district feel safe.

“I feel it’s extremely important that the school constantly supports the community, even during a pandemic. I feel so fortunate that I am able to help in any fashion,” Pechin said.

Preston is also passionate about the meal program and the support it provides families.

“We supply meals to houses that I think a lot of people don’t know exist in this district…I don’t want any kids to go hungry. That’s why this is important to me,” Preston said.

Alexis Costas can be reached at [email protected]

Emma Clarke can be reached at [email protected]