Holt Public Schools provides free meals to residents, students during pandemic

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved more waivers allowing Holt Public Schools to provide seven days of free meals, including fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, to students and families during the pandemic.

There are 10 locations where families can pick up meals, said Evan Robertson, director of food services for Holt Public Schools. The Holt High School main campus distributes meals on Monday from 4-6 p.m. and the other nine locations are stops run by three buses on three different routes between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. every Monday. 

“We know that we help a lot of families out with their grocery bill, because knowing that at least two meals a day for each child is taken care of, is huge,” Robertson said.

Robertson said he has seen the same families pick up food since March and now sees between 1,300 and 1,500 families every week.

“Monday night parents come to the high school. We have a horseshoe drive and they’re able to pull up and pop their trunk and we can place their meals in their car for them,” Robertson said.

Robertson said the food provided is the normal food that would be served in the lunch lines at school and can easily be prepared.

“We try to keep it meals that students can make themselves,” Robertson said. “We go into this thinking that most kids are probably going to be home by themselves or home watching their younger siblings.”

Holt resident Rebecca Urban said the food service has been beneficial for her family in saving her cooking time and spending on groceries.

“We’re not one of those families that are hurting for food, but it makes it so much easier when you have to work from home and you have two kids,” Urban said.

Urban said she has limited time between Zoom meetings and going into work.

“They give you vegetables and fruit already cut up, so this has been a really big time saver for when we need to just throw dinner together,” Urban said. “It’s already there so I just have to make some chicken and then throw that stuff in there.”

Robertson said in addition to the meals, pantry bags have been provided to families with the help of the local food bank.

Holt Community Food Bank Coordinator Marni Swanson said when the pandemic hit the food bank wanted to partner with the schools to help provide meals to the students at home.

“The kids were not in school and we realized that for a lot of kids that’s the only food they get in a day, is the breakfast and lunches through the free and reduced program,” Swanson said. “So we wanted to make sure that we could help them a little bit.”

Swanson said the food bank donates any extra food it receives to the schools and at the beginning of the pandemic, provided 300 emergency bags of food to families in need.

“We’re behind the scenes, supplying any additional items that we have,” Swanson said.

Swanson said anyone can donate to the Holt Community Food Bank.

“It makes people who are donating feel good that they know that it’s staying local, it’s going to kids,” Swanson said.

Robertson said he has seen people not only donate their time, but also money, food and toiletries to help families in need during the pandemic.

“It truly is amazing to see the community come together during a time of crisis like this,” Robertson said.

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