ARLINGTON – Arlington schools are closed through April 24 to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean school children will go hungry without breakfast or lunch.
The district March 16 started offering free grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches at a few locations, not just for the one-third of the district’s 5,969 students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, but for all students.
Meals are available to pick up during the week from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at Presidents Elementary, 505 E. 3rd St. and Arlington High School, 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd., and the Boys & Girls Club. The first day saw a line of cars and families who walked in the sunshine to pick up 160 meals; a day later, the number climbed to 260, with popcorn chicken, potatoes and gravy in the bag.
Starting Monday, this service will expand to 10 more locations throughout the district:
* Silvana Lutheran Church, 1717 Ole Larson Road
* Arlington Heights Community Club
* Oso Fire Station
* Bryant Community Grange, across from Bryant Store
* Angel of the Winds Casino south parking lot
* Sisco Heights Church on McElroy Road
* Kent Prairie Elementary School
* Mobile Estates off 67th Avenue NE in Arlington
* High Clover at 47th Avenue and High Clover Boulevard, and
* Trafton General Store.
The Arlington Food Bank on Fridays will provide food as part of their “Meals ‘til Monday” Program.
“Bus drivers will transport Child Nutrition staff to the various locations with breakfast and lunch grab-and-go bags for students,” said Brian Lewis, Executive Director of Operations. Students will be able to pick up their meals at the different stops that are closest to their neighborhoods from 9:45-11:45 a.m.
To pre-order, fill out the request form daily on the district’s gateway page at www.asd.wednet.edu by 6 a.m. for pickup. Kids must be present to get a meal.
It’s a lesson in logistics, Lewis said.
“We have the capacity, we have the kitchens, and we have the staff that are willing to do this, keeping kids fed,” he said.
For added safety to limit the virus threat, district staff involved in meal distribution are screened each morning and temperatures taken by the district nurse or her staff, then affix color-coded sticky dots each day to confirm they have been screened.
In partnership with the district and city, the food bank was also on site at Presidents handing out expanded Meals ‘til Monday packs as part of their supplemental free lunch program to fill the food gap on weekends and non-school days. They also had family food boxes on hand for any people in need.
Executive director Carla Gastineau said they will be at Presidents on Wednesdays, AHS on Fridays, and hope to be at the bus distribution sites in the coming week.
Food bank board president Mike Simpson, who also owns Arlington Grocery Outlet, said foods and snacks are generally easy to open and prepare even for the youngest children, such as pull-off top puddings or fruit mixes that can be eaten cold.
“We try to make it simple for the kids,” Simpson said. Gastineau and Simpson are also members of Rotary Club of Arlington, who donated $25,000 to the food bank at the start of the school year, and additional donations have been extra helpful.
In partnership with the district and city, the food bank at 19118 63rd Ave. NE also has food ready for families. To limit the chances of virus contact, clients are asked to park the designated parking area and remain in their vehicle. A cart of food will be wheeled out to each client, who can then load items into their vehicle and return the cart; then volunteers will sanitize them for the next pickup. Contact the food bank at 360-435-1631 or go to www.arlingtonfoodbank.org for their hours.