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Bunches of lunches (and breakfasts, too!)

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | December 29, 2020 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — A stream of cars lined up outside Lake City High School on Monday as families patiently waited to receive five-day meal kits to tide over their hungry kids during winter break.

"Happy New Year!" a friendly Pam Waller said to a family after handing half-gallon jugs of milk and food-filled bags through their car window.

“It’s worth it,” said Waller, who works as the kitchen manager at Woodland Middle School.

"I just enjoy seeing the people. They’re so thankful. And there’s just so many people that really need it," she said. "They really appreciate it. Makes you feel good that you can help."

Coeur d'Alene School District Nutrition Services set up distribution sites at LCHS and Coeur d'Alene High to provide free kits of five breakfasts and five lunches for any children 18 and younger. The meals include drumsticks, pizza pockets, chicken nuggets, potatoes, fruits, veggies, milk, juice and cooking instructions.

“Everyone’s been super nice," nutrition services area manager Kelsey Blair said. "They brought us hot cocoa!"

This was the second distribution of the five-day meal kits. Last Monday, 400 meal kits (4,000 meals) were given out, but weren't quite enough.

“It turned out to be way bigger than we thought,” Blair said. “We completely ran out last week."

This week, 800 meal kits, or 8,000 meals, were distributed.

“I feel better knowing that people are going to have food,” Blair's 13-year-old son Cason Sperber said as he helped hand out bags and direct the flow of traffic.

Nutrition services employees spent several days prepping the 800 meal kits, working every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas.

"It’s been amazing,” Blair said. "Thank goodness for our workers. Thank goodness for our staff, like Pam — she gets these two weeks off and she signed up for this, to come in on her break when she didn’t have to. It’s just amazing."

The five-day meal kits and ongoing free school meals are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's summer meals program. The program has been extended to cover meals through the entire school year to ensure students are fed as the country continues to survive through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blair shared a reminder that all school lunches and breakfasts are free for any child 18 and younger, despite income level. Meals will again be available at the Grab-N-Go sites — Lakes, Canfield and Woodland middle schools — from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, including K-8 remote learning Wednesdays, when school resumes Monday.

“I don’t think sometimes parents realize that,” Blair said. "They don’t need to send a lunch with their kids because all the meals are free in the cafeteria. We’re cooking regular meals, just like normal."

Info: www.cdaschools.org

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DEVIN WEEKS/Press

Coeur d'Alene School District Nutrition Services area manager Kelsey Blair arranges crates of half-gallon jugs of milk Monday at Lake City High School as she helps distribute five-day meal kits to local families.

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DEVIN WEEKS/Press

Cason Sperber, 13, grabs meal-filled bags out of boxes on Monday as he helps give out thousands of meals to local families at Lake City High School. Meals were also given away curbside at Coeur d'Alene High.