Bus drivers, staff team up to deliver food and school supplies throughout Klamath County
As the school bus pulled up to Midland Park, students were already waiting. Most were on foot. Some had come on bicycles. All were there for grab-and-go meals offered by the Klamath County School District during the COVID-19 school closure.
“With layoffs, this really does help right now,” said one mother, who brought four students to pick up meals on Friday.
The bags were filled with enough food to provide three breakfasts and three lunches, including milk, apples, oranges, snacks, and at least one hot meal. This Friday’s hot meal was a hamburger.
The school district provides meals for students Tuesdays and Fridays at school sites as well as more than 36 bus drop off locations in the Bonanza, Chiloquin, Gilchrist, Lost River, Henley and Keno areas. In Rocky Point, six families receive meals on Thursdays. Each week, the district delivers around 42,000 meals.
School supplies, including lined paper, pencils, crayons, erasers and sharpeners, also are available at the meal sites as needed. Last week, the district provided 4,300 packets of supplies and has another 1,800 ready for students.
Bus drivers Rickie Williams and Ann Waters and transportation specialist Kelly Baker teamed up Friday for the Henley-Keno route. Their first stop was Henley Elementary School where, with the help of district cooks and staff, they loaded coolers, boxes and crates with enough food for 900 meals (six meals per student) into the back of the bus.
As Williams drove to the first stop, Falcon Heights Park, Waters and Baker loaded the six meals into paper grocery bags so they could easily distribute them to students.
The Henley-Keno route also stops at Round Lake, where students waved at Williams as he drove the bus into the Round Lake Resort Mobile Home Park. Williams and Waters know many of the families on the route, and they greeted students with a smile.
“I wonder what’s in here?” a grade-school boy asked rhetorically as he grabbed his meal bag from the Round Lake stop. “A hamburger!”
What is in the bag varies from week to week. Candace Gracik, director of food services for Klamath County School District, said the district is still providing the same quality of meals that it does during the school year. Gracik started working for the district March 16, replacing Chris Dalla, who is retiring after six years with KCSD and a 45-year career in managing restaurants and school food service.
Breakfast items include banana and strawberry pancakes, cereals, and different type muffins. In the last week, Gracik has started to rotate new items into the menu – mini-maple waffles and mini-French toast are two examples.
Lunches include sandwiches and hot meals such as chicken nuggets, hamburgers, bean and beef burritos, and corn dogs. A state grant is providing fresh produce: apples, oranges, bananas, broccolini, carrots, and celery. Other items students will find are Mozzarella sticks, uncrustable sandwiches, animal crackers, Rice Krispies treats, Nutri-Grain Bars and Cheez-Its.
“We’re trying to keep it evolving and changing,” Gracik said. “It’s supposed to be fun so kids feel excited about eating the food. We have good quality products going out in our meals.”
The Henley-Keno route has seven stops between 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Williams, Waters and Baker had organized and delivered 138 meals before heading back to Henley Elementary School to unload the coolers and extra food items.
Delivering meals is not the same as transporting students, but the drivers say they enjoy seeing their students and providing the needed service.
“Hello, how are you doing? We have hamburgers today,” Williams told a student at one of the stops. “Yes!” the student replied. As they headed to the next stop, Williams informs his coworkers with smile, “All this food is making me hungry.”