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Bridgman school supplies families with meals during closure

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All K-12 Schools in Michigan are closed. Monday, March 16 is the first day in an extended closure meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 outbreaks. 

For some Michigan kids, the meals they get at school are the only guaranteed food they get in a day. During the closure, the state has told districts to go to a model that resembles summer feeding programs. 

In Bridgman, a team of food service workers and other school employees gathered on Sunday to get meals out to kids. Several of them spent their Saturday packing up all these meals too. 

One of them is my mom, Robin Weingart, she’s works at Bridgman’s middle school. She showed me inside the freezer and cooler at the high school.

“This is the cooler portion and that is also 400 of the cooler things, you know, the fresh fruit, things that couldn’t be frozen...so we packed it separately so everyone gets a plastic bag and a paper bag and six drinks,” Robin Weingart said. 

Food Service director Peggy Ferguson said the meals are similar to the ones that are handed out in the summer. 

“We have 184 students that are on the free and reduced program but this is open to everybody,” Ferguson said. “This is like summer feeding, anyone under 18 and then anyone who has a disability the age can go up to 26.”

But Ferguson said it’s a little different for pandemic food. To limit exposure, the school only hands out food twice a week. 

The state has simplified how schools can be reimbursed. Ferguson said she only has to fill out one form to track the food.

“We’re allowed to do two meals a day so we’re doing breakfast and lunch,” Ferguson said. “Then to save parents the trouble of coming back and forth every day, we’re giving them meal kits for three days. On Wednesdays we’ll give them four days worth of meals.”

All of the meals were packed up and sent to three locations. Some will stay at the high school and others are going to the city’s library.

Then, enough meals for 150 kids are loaded on a bus with a team of a driver, the district superintendent, the business supervisor and her husband, the transportation supervisor. These meals will go to the mobile home park south of town, Warren Dunes Estates. 

People who live in the park can walk or drive up to the bus that is parked in front of the mobile home office. Then, families can tell the workers how many kids they need to feed.

Jennifer Morgan picked up food for her 10 year old son. She said he’ll be with babysitters all day because school is closed and the food helps.

“Normally he gets a snack at school, he gets breakfast, he gets lunch,” Morgan said. “Hey, that’s great. Well now he’s gonna continue to get it so really nothing’s changing for him.”

Overall, Bridgman schools handed out nearly all of the 400 meals they packed. Each Wednesday, they will do it all over again, twice a week as long as schools are closed.

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