Since schools closed on March 13, Louisa County Public Schools Nutrition Supervisor Randy Herman and her staff have served nearly 90,000 meals to kids in the community. She’s on a mission to feed every child in the county, regardless of their school enrollment status or parents’ income level.
To Herman, it’s a labor of love — and the one reprieve she can offer parents during these stressful times.
“I can’t pay their rent, I can’t pay their electric bills, but I can provide food for their families,” she said.
It’s all part of the Community Meals program offered by Louisa County Public Schools, and it’s particularly important during this time because so many families were hit unexpectedly with job losses or the added expense of food for their children who are now at home full-time.
According to Herman, many parents are grateful for the program, especially since necessities like milk and meats have become scarce in grocery stores.
Families picking up food each week have shown their gratitude with special gifts for her staff ranging from snacks and treats to hand-quilted beverage coasters with embroidered hearts and the words “thank you.”
“We’re doing this to relieve parents from one of their many burdens,” she said. “It’s also a great way to give back to the community.
“We’ve had so many people asking to volunteer, more than we can use,” she said. “We’ve had teachers and community members come out to distribute the meals. It’s been great.”
Each week, children receive many of the familiar school meals they enjoy such as pizza crunchers and chicken sandwiches. Their favorite is tacos, said Herman.
While her staff doesn’t serve the meals warm, they prepare all of the food and “the fixings” for parents to take home and serve at their leisure. Parents receive two bags: one with frozen meals and another with refrigerated goods such as low-fat milk and juices.
All of the meals served meet United States Department of Agriculture guidelines and offer children balanced meals full of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Often, the food served is a healthier version of alternatives available in the grocery store, Herman said.
Funding for the Community Meals program comes from the USDA, which pays for meals during the school year. The food service program includes emergency feeding for children during situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a typical school year, cafeteria workers at Louisa County Public Schools serve nearly 3,000 breakfast and lunch meals every day. But during the summer, things are a little different.
Last June and July, Herman’s staff served just 8,200 meals. This year, she expected to serve 10,000 during the summer months. Because of COVID-19, she’s easily surpassed that number, averaging 30,000 meals a month.
The school system started the summer meals program several years ago, before Herman expanded it to a mobile version called the Community Cafe. Staff set up two food trucks weekly at eight sites throughout the community and offered educational and enrichment activities. The mobile cafe gave parents and children a place to eat their lunches and socialize for about an hour while continuing learning activities.
Unfortunately, the school system wasn’t able to continue the cafe this year, since officials don’t want people congregating in public. The USDA allowed school systems to prepare and distribute meals as long as they are to-go, Herman said.
Parents can pick up meals for children ages two through 18 for no charge at the following locations from 9 to 11 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Parents will receive breakfast and lunch meals for three days each Tuesday and for four days each Thursday.
Jouett Elementary School, 315 Jouett School Road, Mineral, VA 23117
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, 1782 Jefferson Highway, Louisa, VA 23093
Trevilians Elementary School, 2035 S. Spotswood Trail, Louisa, VA 23093
For more information:
Additionally, parents or community members with questions are also welcomed to email Herman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.