The Klamath County School District will continue its popular meal delivery program through Aug. 31 to ensure youth throughout the county receive needed food during the summer months.
The schedule includes more than 40 delivery sites. Youth ages 1-18 are able to pick up the free meals – three breakfasts and three lunches — on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Candace Gracik, the district’s food services director, spearheaded the effort to continue the program because she was concerned about the pandemic’s impact on the local economy.
“I believe that food service is an essential need in order for the community to repair the financial hardship that was caused in this emergency situation,” she said. “Without this essential service, we will tread backward instead of forwards.”
Gracik started with the district in mid-March, just as the pandemic hit and the state ordered emergency school closures.
She brings to the district more than 15 years of experience in foodservice with the Coast Guard, correctional institutions, and universities. She has a master’s degree in business administration, advanced culinary arts training, and a regional logistics management degree from Harvard University. A claim to fame: She was a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped Season 32.
Gracik will represent the district and the Klamath Basin on the Oregon Department of Education’s Reopening Nutritional Team.
The district implemented its grab-and-go meal program after schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. School bus drivers, paraprofessionals, cooks, and food service workers teamed up to make and deliver breakfasts and lunches to youth at more than 40 bus stops and sites throughout the county. As of June 3, the district had provided more than 114,000 meals.
Two $3,000 FFAVORS grants will help the district provide fresh seasonal produce for summer meals, including strawberries, pears, cherry tomatoes, and broccolini. New items also have been added to the menu. Students this summer will get mini-waffles, buffalo chicken, and pizza rippers.
“Our goal is to provide healthy, fun meals that kids want to eat,” Gracik said.
The school district is working with the Klamath Hungry Child Coalition, Integral Youth Services, and the Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank to ensure youth throughout the entire community have access to food.
Since March, the local food bank has seen a 70 percent increase in need as a result of layoffs from the economic impact of the pandemic. Integral Youth Services also is providing meals for youth this summer, focusing on their efforts on city neighborhoods.
On June 30, a coalition of 22 organizations will kick-off “Park & Play Fun in the Sun,” which will distribute fun, educational play packets along with the meals. The program is being sponsored by the Klamath County Library, Forest Service, Sky Lakes Foundation, Integral Youth Services, and the school district.
Community businesses also are doing their part. Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza has provided $125,910 worth of free pizzas to the district’s meal program, last week donating 8,000 gift cards for medium pizzas. This is in addition to 1,000 pizza cards donated and distributed in March.
“The cards we distributed in March were all redeemed, supporting regional general manager Zana Wells’ mission to give back to the community and provide hours to her employees,” Gracik said.
Klamath County School District’s grab-and-go program distributes meals north to Gilchrist, east to Bly, west to Rocky Point, and south to Malin, aiming to reach all students in the district.
For the complete schedule of school and bus delivery sites and times, go to the Klamath County School District’s website at www.kcsd.k12.or.us and click on the Grab and Go Meals link.
Check out the Basinlife.com Klamath County School District Page HERE for more news and information!